Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

The Traffic Congestion folks got started yesterday, and if the first meeting is any indication, it should make for interesting copy as we proceed along in the discussions. Right off the bat, critics of the mayor's plan wasted no time in voicing their criticisms. Assemblywoman Vivian Cook worried that, "...her district, which includes Long Island City, could become a "parking lot" because of drivers avoiding the fees."

The mayor's presenter responded to Cook's concerns by saying that the issue could be addressed by residential parking permits and muni-meters. Perhaps so. But how can we possibly gauge any of this without the requisite data collection and analysis? There are simply no vetted numbers available to give us any confidence in the mayor's rather brazen assumptions. This shortcoming was highligted in this morning's Metro, when critics of the plan asked the mayor's rep where the numbers were.

Which brings us to the issue of cost. As Richard Brodsky pointed out yesterday the London comparison, as questionable as it might be, still is based on the fact that the congestion tax in that fair city is now around $20, which if approved here would mean that New York commuters would be paying over $5,000 a year in additional taxes. This is the issue that has particularly roiled opponents of the mayor's plan.

This is on top of the fact that we're already over burdened and, as Nicole Gelinas points out, the current rates are eroding the city's economic diversity and competitiveness. Add to this the ill-conceived truck tax-also sure to escalate, and you got a further big government anchor on the city's entrepreneurial class. An additional issue here is whether the goal of the tax is to reduce traffic or simply to raise revenue, a question that was raised by Assembly Ways and Means Chair Denny Farrell: "Are they trying to decrease the amount of cars coming in or increase the amount of money we're getting?" he asked."

All of which is of course complicated by the fact that an inefficient agency is in charge of all of these issues; and the MTA is certainly failing in its efforts to win friends and influence people as it lurches toward an ineviatble fare hike. It will soon be time to take a time out on all of this, and launch a more sober evaluation process to determine how to deal with a whole host of mass transit problems.