Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Boxed in on Congestion

The cries for a congestion tax continue unabated-with the governor telling the NY Daily News that he'd like to see the Ravitch Commission re-intro the plan: "Gov. Paterson has a straightforward attitude when it comes to reviving talk of congestion pricing: Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines. Paterson, a backer of the original - and defeated - plan to charge drivers to enter gridlocked areas of Manhattan, Tuesday said he welcomes "any voice that wants to reintroduce it."

This call, likely to once again fall on deaf ears, is being revived because of the dire conditions of our trains and buses-and the expected increase in the city's population in the coming years: "We're going to have an extra million people living in New York City in the next decade, and we've got to figure out ways to move people around, and also accommodate the people in lower Manhattan [and] some of our security issues," he said."

The News editorializes in this dead end direction: "Increased ridership, spurred lately by soaring gasoline prices, is pushing the subway beyond limits. Thus, Transit resorts to trying to stuff in 18% more riders by eliminating seats. Which is a short-term fix born of desperation because Transit's parent, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, doesn't have the money to upgrade the system to run more trains safely on the same tracks."

Which leads the editorialists to conclude: "Ravitch has let it be known that the items under consideration include congestion pricing, a concept the state Assembly dumped without so much as a vote - in the process losing a bonanza in federal funding. The MTA is in such a deep hole that congestion pricing would be only part of a solution. But members of the Assembly, led by Speaker Sheldon Silver, are already ruling it out. They would rather see New Yorkers stand and sweat."

Of course, the idea of pumping more money into a failed managerial enterprise makes little sense to us. But if you're inclined in this direction than why not collect the so far uncollected Indian cigarette tax revenues before smacking tax payers once again right in the gob-something that the News doesn't address.

But, getting back to the governor's concerns about more population density, doesn't this fact make the proposed new Costco on the west side-and the two BJs in Brooklyn-poor public policy choices? The CBD is certainly no place for such auto dependent shopping; but the boroughs could use less of it as well, since these stores suck the bisiness out of the neighborhood shopping strips.

The problem, as we see it, lies with the sad fact that Mayor Mike has never lived in a real NYC neighborhood-the Upper East Side hardly qualifies. And when do you think the last time Bloomberg went shopping for groceries? Forty years ago? How can he understand the importance of the neighborhood supermarket to the ecology of the city's neighborhood? It underscores what we've observed about the mayor's sustainability hustle: it lacked any deep appreciation of the things that make the city both interesting and unique.