Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Peters Transports Us-But to Where?

Beware of bureaucrats who exhibit rhetorical flourishes, typically the substance behind the remarks is quite a bit less impressive. And so it is the case on one Mary Peters, someone who it appears may have an eye on a life after government as the Bush era comes to a close. How else to explain the effusiveness of her praise for the mayor's congestion tax?

Perhaps there is a genuine appreciation at work here but the following adulatory prose for the mayor, cited in the City Room Blog, doesn't have us suspending our disbelief: "He has stepped forward with a plan as brass and bold as New York itself. New Yorkers must understand that we must stop relying on yesterday's ideas to fight today's traffic jams." If it were up to us we would have paired brass with another word altogether. Clearly when it comes to the mayor, Secretary Peters has raised toady to its highest possible expression.

Still, as we have said, the money does offer the mayor a degree of solace-even if we disagree with our friends at City Room that, it "gives the mayor enormous leverage as he continues to press for his proposal." There are simply too many unknown variables in this equation, and the collapsing public trust of the MTA is certainly one of the bigger question marks. Still, we kind of agree with the Intelligencer folks who observed that; "Shelly Silver, we think, is going to have a whole lot more fun."

We also consider the issue of the actual real world impact of the mayor's plan to be, perhaps, the largest obstacle in the way of the mayor's success. It was fascinating to read the Secretary's comment that the DOT would consider alternatives devised by the commission, but that any other proposal would have to meet the "same performance goals" as mayor Bloomberg's plan. She went on to say-one thinks of Charlie McCarthy here-"it would be difficult for them to meet those performance objectives," if the commission's plan was substantially different from the congestion tax.

Here we get to the heart of this flim-flam; somewhat on the order of one lying and the other swearing to it. How the heck does Peters know what the mayor's plan will actually deliver in the way of congestion relief? No one has ever independently vetted the plan's assumptions, yet everyone in the amen chorus repeats the mayor's assertions as if they were part of some religious liturgy. Oh, and speaking of the chorus, we did get a kick out of the congratulatory remarks from the NYC Partnership that cited its "study" that "documented the high cost of traffic." Not mentioned was the role of all its own members in the exacerbation of the traffic they now so urgently are fighting to relieve.

It is time to put it all to the test. Given the benchmarks in this earmark, and the phony deadline posturing the mayor and DOT has done, it will be impossible for the mayor and his acolytes to refuse to subject the plan to the needed EIS; one that is not conducted by, as the Times might say, the "usual suspects." The review, however, needs to subject the mayor's plan to a full economic impact analysis as well-costs as well as benefits need to be properly juxtaposed.

If the review process goes forward in this manner we see a veritable minefields ahead, and we're inclined to agree with one observer who noted that; "In other words, this could be tougher than the Lincoln Tunnel during rush hour." (kudos to the Wonkster for this)