Old Gray Lady Gets on the Bandwagon

The New York Times came out advocating for progressive transportation policies in its Sunday City section editorial, saying that the departure of DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall presents "a great opportunity to take bold action on a vexing quality of life and health issue: traffic congestion."

After giving Weinshall props for her actions on the Queens Boulevard front (and taking her to task on the Staten Island Ferry crash), the Times goes on to say how much more needs to be done, voicing some arguments that probably sound mighty familiar to Streetsblog readers:

Whoever gets the job should waste no time in helping to secure federal money to study ways of relieving traffic, including the possibility of congestion pricing. Washington has recognized that the nation’s cities need traffic controls, and millions of dollars are being offered to municipalities seeking solutions. New York should claim its share.

There has been a lot of pushback on the idea of congestion pricing, in which drivers would be charged a fee in the most heavily trafficked part of the city, Manhattan south of Central Park. Opponents portray the fee as a regressive tax that would be hard on small businesses, but versions of such a charge in London, Stockholm and elsewhere show promising results, reducing traffic apparently without impeding commerce.

As a quick second act, the next commissioner could take a bite out of congestion and set an example for the rest of city government by revoking its workers’ parking permits, an idea promoted by Transportation Alternatives, a nonpartisan advocate for reduced car traffic. City workers from all departments, the police in particular, regularly abuse the privilege — the permits amount to a free pass to park, even double-park, anywhere — especially in Lower Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn.

In the larger picture, the new commissioner should treat city transportation as the regional issue it is. Much of the traffic on the most heavily used streets originates in outlying areas. Workers are commuting from ever greater distances. Sometimes that is a matter of necessity, sometimes it’s a matter of perceived convenience.


The city would benefit greatly from a transportation leader who promotes use of public transit, walking and cycling as not just a way to a destination, but as a way of life.

  • Dan Icolari

    That last paragraph sums up the challenge.

  • ddartley

    I’m happy to see the Times produce such an editorial, but check out this gem from it:

    “Ms. Weinshall committed the city to building more bike lanes, promising 200 miles over the next few years. This could lead to fewer cars and accidents, especially if the lanes are kept clear of foot traffic and other obstacles to the cyclists.”

    FOOT traffic? FOOT TRAFFIC???

    I think it was Komanoff who surmised here on Streetsblog that the Times Ed Board must all be car people. I’ll go one better and bet, based on the quote above, that they never see the streets at all, except for Times Square. That’s where bike lanes ARE overrun with peds. Everywhere else, it’s cars, as everyone else in New York knows.

  • TOM BALISH

    AMERICANS: GUILTY OF EXTRAVAGANT OVER-INDULGENCE–TOO MANY CARS

    It is time for America to start increasing the taxes on car ownership. If a household owns more than one car, there should be an increasingly higher annual tax on every car after the first one.

    This would be a fair way to encourage a reduction of cars on the road, to increase revenues for road and transit system improvements, and to fight Global Warming.

    How do we all live well without so many cars? The answer, and the plan, is found in a great new book, “HOW TO LIVE WELL WITHOUT OWNING A CAR” by Chris Balish.

    Sincerely,

    Tom Balish
    Ledyard, CT

  • TJ

    How did Weinshall get her position at CUNY?

    Was there a panel of multiple candidates or was it a “no bid contract” based on politics and cronyism?

    I think Ms Weinshall should turn down this new job until these questions are answered. I plan on calling CUNY on Friday to get the answer.

    Welcome to Sunshine Week.

  • mork

    Thanks for that tip, Tom. I’ll look for the book at my library.

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