End of the Road

NYC’s congestion pricing plan veered into the ditch of the state legislature yesterday. They’ve missed the April 7th deadline for approval, and lost the over $350 million dollars in federal financing that was a big part of getting the changes underway. And the revenue from the new tax was supposed to be diverted toward improvements to the Subway and other forms of public transportation, so now those need to draw money from something else, or continue to rot.

According to reports form the NYTimes, legislators mostly didn’t like the plan because they thought it was unfair to poor people, and because they thought Bloomberg was a total jerk about it. Most of the opposition appeared to come from people who didn’t live in Manhattan, and from Democrats. I’d be interested to see the numbers on people from these boroughs who actually drive to Manhattan everyday, and numbers on who the drivers in the proposed area actually were- rich, poor, local? I simply don’t buy the argument that the least affluent object to congestion pricing because it’s “elitist”. Not only did the legislation include breaks for low income people, but seriously- that’s what’s going to prevent them from driving their vehicles to the hippie, arts, shopping, and finance districts of Manhattan, where parking is already over $30 dollars a day, and traffic eats up your gas fast at $3.40 a gallon?

Grist offers a list of reasons Bloomberg’s plan failed, mostly originating with Bloomberg himself, and the way the plan was presented to the legislature. He gets some good ones in, including “ignoring the lessons of Machiavelli” and “Manhattanites didn’t care enough to support it (because only 25% of them own cars, so what’s the big deal about car taxes?)”.

Oh well, heavy sigh. Way to waste your state’s potential, NY politicians. I hope they try something like this in DC. It wouldn’t make as much sense as NYC- the Metro is not as useful as their Subway, and we’d have to make a huge leap in available public transport before it would be feasible. But somebody’s got to do it.

4 Responses to “End of the Road”

  1. 1 Cameron April 8, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    sigh…..sometimes I get really disenfranchised with the political process. Being a scientist, it makes sense that you go with the facts and numbers, not the feelings (i.e. the guy with the facts is a jerk)! It’s a moment when Blomberg needs to take a que from GW…..bash some heads, make lots of threats on the down low, and get your shizzle passed!! Maybe NYC will have congestion taxes by the time the 2nd ave subway is finished!!!

  2. 2 Gentleman Friend April 8, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    So, with this possible test case essentially pocket vetoed down, are there any other secondary attempts anywhere else in the country who might be actually set up to succeed where this one has failed?

  3. 3 Cameron April 9, 2008 at 11:26 am

    To answer that: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/09/opinion/09gutfreund.html

    Also note in the article, that everywhere on the easter seaboard that similar taxes have been attempted (in the past and present), they have failed; where as Europe has accomplished this and more many years ago!

  4. 4 virescent April 9, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    GF- Tolls on highways are kinda like congestion pricing- pay to use the road, which reduces the people on it, makes it faster, covers wear and tear. And those tolls are everywhere- New Jersey and PA and Ohio have a huge toll road/local road system.

    In the middles of cities though, San Francisco has something kinda like it near the Golden Gate. but it really looks like nowhere that would want to do it has anything liek the infrastructure to carry it out. For gongestion pricing to make sense, you need to have one general area where everyone wants to get to, a general place they’re coming from, and another way to get there besides the highway. NY has the most useful subway in the country. Other cities may have rail systems, but they’re not as pervasive, they’re much harder to get to, and they don’t tend to get close to where people want to go. Without a decent second option, it doesn’t make sense for legislatures to even try to get this stuff through, even if they were tempted.

    I think the real problem is, US cities aren’t walkable. They weren’t designed to be biked in, or walk through, and they weren’t designed with mass transit options in mind- especially since the 50s. The American Dream is to move out of the city apartment into your own house in a sea of other houses with similar people living the dream, and own a shiny car to drive to your job that’s near the other offices, and then drive to the stores near all the other stores. So cities developed that way, and now the only way to get to the grocery store is with a car. Unless the infrastructure is in place to give people options that aren’t “driving”, taxes on driving aren’t going to fly.

    Manhattan had one of the best chances in the US to get it done. And, well.

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