Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Gridlock Sam Speaks the Truth

In today's NY Daily News, former transportation commissioner, and environmental consultant Sam Schwartz makes a dramatic Op-Ed statement on the causes and remedies for congestion in New York city. He persuasively points out how the recent taxi strike immediately made the congested streets much less so, and advises that the elimination of 1,00 medallion cabs would go along way towards making city streets more passable: "So, one way to reduce congestion is to reduce the number of taxis - permanently. I did the math when I was traffic commissioner and found that the optimum number of taxis was just under 12,000. We now have more than 13,000."

Schwartz goes on to suggest that the black cars and limos be restricted, and a tax of $100 be put on out-of-town trucks who use our streets to short cut their travels. In addition, the reinstating of two-way tolls on the Verrazano would also help in alleviating this problem. His money quote: "The third big troublemaker is the through truck, or trucks with neither origin nor destination in Manhattan's central business district. Our current pricing scheme - double tolls to go out via the Verrazano Bridge and no tolls to drive through downtown and midtown - encourages truckers to clog many key arteries inside the city. More than 10,000 trucks a day are doing this."

The former commissioner also goes after placard parking as an additional 8% contributor to the downtown congestion. Towards the end, almost as an afterthought, he supports congestion pricing-but with the following circumspect language: "The final piece of the puzzle is the most controversial: congestion pricing. We should proceed now. But we don't need to wage an all-or-nothing battle on congestion pricing to combat traffic. By targeting the four major culprit vehicles that are the root cause of most traffic, we can create a little breathing room on our streets."

So we begin to see that there are alternatives to the mayor's tax. We wonder, what kind of congestion reduction can we achieve with the Schwartz plan? We think that this approach, and we're certain that there are others, should be put to the test-as of course the mayor's plan should be as well-since there has been no independent review of any of this, only self-serving posturing by folks who believe that they speak ex cathedra.