Monday, July 16, 2007

New York Congestion Pricing

I think Mayor Michael Bloomberg has the right idea when he discusses his plan for congestion pricing. I believe he is sincere in his desire to make New York a better city and to make New York a "greener" city.

Following London's 2002 plan of charging money to drive your car into Central London, the most congested part of the city, Bloomberg thinks an eight dollar fee will help raise funds to make New York greener and prevent drivers from entering lower Manhattan (that is, below 86th Street).

Bloomberg uses the rhetoric of public transportation as a solution for New York's commuter woes. He is right to do this. Despite the best efforts of conservative apologists for America's failed market system, urban public transportation still exists. If it was funded per capita at the same levels as airports, highways, war, or corporate subsidies, our transportation systems might be the envy of the world.

Sadly, however, conservatives and market apologists running America (from Hillary Clinton to George W Bush from Michael Bloomberg to Mitt Romney) see development of public transportation not as an opportunity to make our nation better, cleaner, and stronger, they see it as an opportunity for profiteering by friends who will place them in paying positions on the boards of their companies. They see it as an opportunity to bilk the taxpayers out of billions.

Bloomberg constantly talks about the subway being a viable alternative to driving in New York. Bloomberg has clearly never tried to get from an office in Manhattan to an apartment in central Brooklyn after seven in the evening; he has never tried to go to the opera or theater from an outer borough and then get home before dawn; he has never seen the filth in which the subway operates since all the cleaning contracts were privatized. If Bloomberg were forced to use the subway to get around town, I think he would be singing a very different song about it being a viable transportation alternative for New Yorkers.

If Bloomberg sincerely wants to make public transportation work, I beg him to try these experiments for three months before sitting with a bunch of suburbanites and chauffeured officials to devise a plan:

Commute from Bay Ridge to the Citigroup Building at E 53rd Street & Lexington Avenue five days in a row.

On the Tuesday of that week, work until eight o'clock in the evening and then commute home.

On Thursday of that week, arrive at the office at seven in the morning for an early telephone conference.

On a Saturday evening, take your date from Borough Park to Lincoln Center for the opera. Include dinner and a drink afterwards and then go home.

On a Friday night, stay in the city after work, meet friends for dinner, drinks and a rock show in the East Village. When the band has finished, have one more drink, then take public transportation home to Ozone Park.

On a weekend morning, take public transportation from an address in Queens to visit a friend in Riverdale. Get back to us on how long that takes.

Leave an apartment in the Upper East Side to attend a birthday party in Brooklyn, then take the public transportation home again, and post the total time it takes as a Comment on this blog.

Get from any borough, including Manhattan, to an address in Travis, Staten Island, only using public transportation.

During any of these trips, please pay special attention to the following: the filth on the subway cars, the climate control on the buses, the filth on the subway platforms, the "strawberry" room deodorizer used to mask the filth that nobody has cleaned, the lack of announcements, the manners of the token booth workers, the driver, conductors, and inspectors, and then publish those findings n the Times.

Do all of this without your press handlers, and transit czars, and lackeys who make New York City work for you.

You see, Mayor, the City has gone to crap under your reign. I like you and I want you to succeed, but the City is filthy and the trains aren't running properly. Your ideas sound lovely, but you should get New York City to work properly before you start to "improve" it with a congestion tax.

Get out on the streets (and into the subways), your honor, without your handlers and get an idea of how the city really works.

Dick Mac Recommends:

Sometime in New York City
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1 comment:

Liz said...

The difference between Bloomberg and London's mayor (who I have no time for personally) Ken Livingstone is that Ken actually travels on the Tube every day. He makes a point of doing so. He knows the failings of it.

But what can you do with such a poor system not even designed as public transport like your subway? The Tube could be the greatest underground contruction on earth and it still struggles. What chance do you have with an inflated private railroad? It would take billions to make the subway all the things you want. Prices, already modest, imo, would double, and who would pay that?

It's 24 hours so when would it close for the extensive renovations it needs? It's more of a job than one mayor can handle. The Tube is not perfect and god knows, August in 100 degree heat with no air con is sickeningly unpleasant but compared to the subway it runs ever so well.

L x