Thursday, November 01, 2007

Weiner's Decongestable

With all of the sycophancy going on, it's refreshing to see that Congressman Anthony Weiner has two hands holding on to his integrity. In this morning's NY Post, the former mayoral candidate lays out an excellent critique of the congestion tax plan: "But the idea for dealing with the critical challenge of traffic mitigation is too expensive and places an unfair burden on New York City residents. Worst of all, it ultimately would fail to achieve our shared goals of improving the environment and fostering mobility."

Weiner goes on to point out that there are a myriad of good ways, short of a tax, that the mayor could begin to implement in the congestion relief effort. One in particular that we lime is his suggestion about trucks. As we have been saying all along, the $21 truck tax has nothing whatever to do with any congestion relief, and functions solely as a tax on small businesses.

As Weiner says, we need a better way to address the truck problem: "There are more cars on the road these days - but a lot more trucks, a 30 percent rise since 1998. We should give truck drivers incentives to do deliveries during off-peak hours - and also give companies good reason (such as tax credits) to agree to only accept deliveries only at times of lighter traffic. I also support dramatic increases in bridge and tunnel tolls during for trucks during "prime time" - and reduced or free off-peak passage."

This is a good start. We would add that some attention needs to be paid to small contractors, service vehicles that can't do their vital business at off-peak hours. Not all truck traffic is for delivering to stores in the CBD.

And Weiner hits the nail in the head as far as the inequitable nature of the congestion tax: "Improving our environment will require us all to make sacrifices. But the PlaNYC proposal whacks residents of the five boroughs while letting many suburban commuters off scot-free. If you live in Manhattan or cross into Midtown over the East River bridges, PlaNYC would hit you with an $8 car tax. But Long Island or Westchester residents who take the Midtown Tunnel or Triborough Bridge would pay nothing - because the plan gives these suburban drivers credit for their tolls. If anyone should get a free pass, it should be residents of New York City, not our friends in the suburbs."

Not to mention the fact that the tax itself will be eaten up by the exorbitant administrative costs involved with installing and monitoring thousands of cameras. Here Weiner gets it as well: "The PlaNYC congestion-pricing scheme requires installing and maintaining hundreds of cameras and license-plate scanners; that's an enormously expensive big-government solution to our Midtown traffic woes. Nearly 40 percent of the "car tax" receipts would go not to improving mass transit, but to upkeep of the machines and the giant bureaucracy behind them."

So what we need is to go back to the drawing board on the congestion front. The current plan, ill thought out, and way to unfair and expensive, needs to be replaced by a more targeted approach that reduces congestion without penalizing New Yorkers with an unnecessary tax.