Kheel Plan Getting Lots of Play, Except Where It Counts

With Michael Bloomberg expressing doubts about an apparently favored proposal to move the congestion pricing boundary south to 60th Street, Newsday columnist Ellis Henican challenged the mayor yesterday to get behind the Kheel free transit plan.

[T]his is the giant carrot to accompany Bloomberg’s congestion-pricing stick. Charge $16 instead of $8, the authors suggest – and add parking and taxi surcharges. Really make the drivers pay. Then take that money and make all the buses and subway free.

Bold enough for you?

Henican talked with lead author and Streetsblog contributor Charles Komanoff, who said the same approach could be applied to the LIRR, Metro-North and Jersey Transit.

Meanwhile, there’s a lively discussion going on over at Second Ave. Sagas, where blogger Benjamin Kabak says he likes the Kheel plan, a lot, but sees it as too good to be true.

People in New York City are, stupidly, married to their cars. They demand below-market, on-street parking. They demand access to roads at the expense of wide sidewalks and bike lanes. They demand access to roads at the expense of common-sense bus rapid transit lanes. They demand the right to drive as though it were protected by the Constitution, and this is simply a misguided and harmful attitude.

But sadly, the ideal society where a Kheel plan could pass because it would negatively impact the people who could afford and positively impact the people who need it doesn’t exist. Ted Kheel should be applauded for his vision, and his plan deserves as much attention as anything under consideration now. It’s groundbreaking; it’s visionary; it would work; and it just won’t happen.

Setting aside the Kheel plan’s chances of being taken seriously by the mayor and the Congestion Mitigation Commission, before it’s over they may be among the few who aren’t at least talking about it.

In related news, a new program in Chicago that will allow seniors 65 and up to take transit for free has been deluged with applicants. The AP, via WTHI in Terre Haute, IN, reports that "Governor Rod Blagojevich says response has been so strong that the state is adding a second toll-free number to accommodate callers who are registering for the program."

  • rhubarbpie

    While I tend to agree with Benjamin Kabak in that free transit “just won’t happen,” that’s precisely what the rap has been on congestion pricing for years. Then a mayor got behind the idea.

    The same could happen with free transit. Mayor Bloomberg was dragged into his support for congestion pricing, but now it’s a real possibility. If this mayor, ideally — or the next mayor — supports free transit and actually does the leg work to win support, this could also move.

    A serious candidate with the “free transit” pledge would shake up the race. Looking at the current crop of the most likely candidates — Quinn, Thompson, Weiner — I’d say it’s a long shot that any one of them would got on this bandwagon. But it’s worth pushing them for their views, and looking at the other potential candidates as well.

  • Funny thing about the Kheel plan is that everyone I know who’s read the plan or my post about it loves it. When people understand that the plan can work and kicks back tangible returns in the form of free and improved transit, they want to see it implemented.

    Interestingly, another group of people not talking about the plan includes The New York Times. They were noticeably silent on it last week.

  • srock

    It should also be noted that the London Congestion Pricing program currently charges roughly $15 to enter the zone, up from their initial price of $8. This fee level has a precedent– the same one the mayor has used repeatedly to argue for his pricing plan. There is no reason the Kheel plan shouldn’t be politically palatable.

  • buford puser

    Odd that Kabak would say Kheel’s plan is doomed because “People in New York City are, stupidly, married to their cars.”
    Shouldn’t that be “[The 40 % of] People in New York City [who own cars,] are, stupidly, married to their cars [and are so politically powerful that they automatically will overpower the other 60%]”?
    Wouldn’t free transit for the non-driving large majority have _some_ political oomph?

  • A study just released in San Francisco recommends against providing free transit. It looked at some cities that tried it: “The experiments in Trenton, Austin, and Denver were abandoned, and higher costs were cited as just one reason. Another reason: Drivers and longtime passengers complained that the free rides attracted rowdy and destructive joyriders.”

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2008/01/29/MNFQUNU4C.DTL

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