Sunday, August 3, 2008

Under Budget Pressure, Look For "Congestion Pricing" To Make A Comeback

The writing on the wall is clear as day and so should be the motives. The MTA and the city, facing mounting budgetary woes, are planting the seeds for the comeback of "Congestion Pricing". The push won't happen before November elections, to be sure, politicians don't have the kind of guts to do that. But, it will happen. The Trojan Horse of congestion pricing will come in the form of Richard Ravitz's MTA commission report due out conveniently in December. The commission is stacked with mayor appointees who support the scheme.
Before we get into the debate about congestion, the environment and all, could we all just take a moment out to see it for what it is- a revenue scheme. That's all I ask, just admit it, and hopefully we'll figure out how giving another $500 Million a year into the black hole they call the MTA will actually benefit the environment.
If you ask me, the goals of the original plan, a negligible improvement in traffic flow and less cars on the street, has already been achieved through high gas prices and a lousy economy. Such conditions have already made driving in the city easier and I'm sure has reduced pollution. That said, I hope the politicians get it right this time. They need the money, mass transit should be encouraged and funded, and hopefully this time a few basic considerations should be taken into account:
1- NYC residents should not bear a disproportional burden under a new plan (the last one basically gave people coming from outside NYC a free ride).
2- Natural borders, like the rivers that surround Manhattan make much more sense than an artificial boundary in the middle of Manhattan.
3- Something must be done, regardless of the plan, to encourage trucks to deliver late at night or early in the morning, and not double park willy nilly all over the city.
4- Biking must continue to be encouraged. Tax credits to buy or own a bike would be a great idea. The city must continue building bike lanes and bike shelters. Importantly, bike lanes should be enforced. Bike lanes must also be reinforced by concrete curbs to promote safety, encorage more biking, and stop vehicles from parking and double parking on them.
5- Hybrid vehicles should be given an exemption or discount and perhaps even tax credits to city residents in such a scheme.
Congestion Pricing is apparently inevitable. Let's get it right this time.
M.T.A. Shortfall Renews Talk of Congestion Pricing as Revenue Source (NY Times)

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