Wednesday, August 29, 2007

On the Brink of a Windfall

We have been commenting on the role being played-both behind and in front of the scenes-by the consulting firm of Parsons Brinckerhoff, on the advancement of the idea of a congestion tax. One of the themes we have been emphasizing has been the need for independent review of all of the assumptions built into the mayor's plan. Foremost among these assumptions is the assertion-taken at face value by a coalition of the venal and the gullible-that the mayor's tax will reduce traffic by 6.3%.

As we have been pointing out, this unverified magic number emerges from a study done by the P-B firm on behalf of the NYC Partnership. To our knowledge, not a single independent review of the study has ever been done. But one thing we do know for certain, Parsons is no disinterested third party in this fight. Let's put it this way: As far as "congestion pricing" is concerned, Parsons Brinckerhoff doesn't have a dog in the fight (and with apologies to Michael Vick), they are the dog.

When you google Parsons and congestion pricing you get 14,000 hits! The firm is advocating all over the world on this issue, and to say that it has a vested interest in a favorable outcome in NYC would be one whopping understatement. So then, what is its once and future employee, Sadik-Kahn, doing on the congestion commission? And for that matter, what is the Parsons partner at the NYC Partnership, Kathy Wylde, doing there as well? This is what the NY Times calls a "mostly thoughtful and impressive" commission? Emmit Till had a fairer adjudication than the opponents of a congestion tax will receive from this bunch.

So in the middle of this process, one that even the mayor's aides are saying is a stacked deck, the Bloombergistas are starting a procurement process for the firms that will eventually handle all of the lucrative work installing and monitoring the congestion pricing system-and not one reporter has asked the mayor whether or not Parsons Brinckerhoff should be excluded from the bidding?

Which brings us back to the purpose of the congestion commission: evaluation. How could this possibly be done fairly? With so many ringers appointed to this commission all that is left is to be done to punctuate this charade is to disinter Judge Roy Bean to preside over the proceedings. One marvels at the level of arrogance of the puppet master who put this Punch and Judy show together.