Monday, April 07, 2008

London: Congestion Tax Exemplar?

In yesterday's NY Daily News the paper took another look at the impact that congestion taxing is having on the city of London and found not surprisingly, as its headlline points out-"Congestion fee hasn't stopped snarls." (We actually thought that the headline in the print addition was better, something about the results being more a public relations success than a real world triumph).

As the paper points out, citing an economist at the London School of Economics: "It has proven you can introduce a major tax on car use and the city's economy will keep growing," said Tony Travers, director of the Greater London Group at the London School of Economics. But Travers says the charge hasn't radically altered traffic patterns and is mostly a public-relations triumph: "It's helped convey the idea of London as a modern, forward-looking city." Doesn't this fit right in with the posturing and puffery of Mayor Mke?

And while the higher end stores and tourist attractions haven't been negatively impacted, smaller and independent stores have: "Business experts are not bullish on the charge.
"We would argue the current London scheme is not one you would want to export," says James Ford, spokesman for the London Chamber of Commerce. Ford's research found that since congestion charging began, retail chains have experienced a 22% drop in profitability while independent stores saw a 53% dip."

In a companion story in the paper there is a focus on the clean air effects of the tax. We got an especially good chuckle out of the mayor's sustainability maven: "The reductions in the outer boroughs would be concentrated along expressways and "have a significant benefit," insisted Rohit Aggarwala, the city's director of long-term planning and sustainability. "In the Bronx, some of the worst neighborhoods in terms of asthma hospitalizations are those clustered around the highways. We will see traffic on those roads decrease disproportionately," he argued. "You will see localized benefits there, just like you will see localized benefits on 125th St. and on Houston St."

What an absolute load of crap! Where's the EIS Rohit? And what about the mayor's approvals of the Gateway Mall along "Asthma Alley," and the Yankee Stadium reconstruction (not to mentioon the loss of all of that parkland). The Gateway project alone will generate an additional 125,000 cars and trucks a week; but all of this was before the mayor's environmmental epiphany, when he decided he wanted to follow in the footsteps of London's Ken the Red.

And speaking of the absent EIS, where's the hue and cry from all of our environmental special pleaders-those hypocrtical hollerers when the habitat of the snail darters may possibly be altered? We're going to call this whole charade, the Silence of the Shams. Please, let's just from now on, when a large project is being forwarded, stipulate that whatever the city or the developer says, will be taken as the emmis-with the EIS to be done after the project's completed.

So now this congestion tax mess is in the hands of the "Shadow Governor." Who knows what danger lurks? The Shadow do.