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Media (Mostly) Give PlaNYC Its Due

3:38 PM EDT on April 25, 2007

When Malcom Murray-Clark, Director of Congestion Charging at Transport for London, visited New York last month, he cited negative media coverage as a major obstacle to implementing the congestion charge in the English capital. By contrast, unlike some, New York media on balance appear willing to give PlaNYC, and congestion pricing, the benefit of the doubt -- at least for now.

From the Times:

This move to congestion pricing in New York City is long overdue. But it will still kick up lots of opposition, especially in the State Legislature, which is where too many good ideas like this one go to die.

One good thing: Mayor Bloomberg is known for sticking to his guns -- for better or worse. This time, it will be for the better, as Stockholm, Singapore and London can attest.

The mayor and other public officials must take care that this money goes to improve public transit in the outer boroughs, especially for those who will need better buses or subways when they leave their autos behind. If people feel that this surcharge is going mostly to Manhattan, the plan will die on its shelf.

From the Post:

Some will be tempted to seize on heavy-lift elements in the proposal -- its congestion-pricing aspect, for example -- to write off the whole undertaking as stillborn.

Others will suggest that the plan amounts to pie-in-the-sky window-dressing for a greener-than-thou Bloomberg presidential run.

And it is true that making even modest progress on so ambitious an initiative will tax the leadership skills of a mayor who sometimes has difficulty communicating with ordinary New Yorkers. (Bloomberg's dismissal of objections to an $8-per-day congestion-pricing charge -- by simply noting New York is a city of $12 movie tickets -- is a case in point.)

But the fact is that Mayor Mike has put a thoughtful, comprehensive plan on the table to address a vital goal: New York City's long-term viability.

From the Daily News:

Without action, the quality of life is likely to decline sharply in the next decade or so, eventually reducing New York's stature as a desirable, world-class city. That's why everyone who cares about this city should focus attention on the sweeping plans Mayor Bloomberg unveiled yesterday for tackling the gargantuan challenges ahead.

Politicians must not reject congestion pricing out of hand. First, the roads leading into Manhattan do not have the capacity for a city of 9 million. Second, without expanded subway service, virtually every line will suffer peak-period congestion. Third, transit projects now on the boards, ranging from bike lanes to the Second Ave. subway to an East Side connection for the Long Island Rail Road, have a collective price tag of $31 billion. The city does not have a fraction of that, nor does the MTA, nor does the state.

If elected officials, including those who would be mayor after Bloomberg, have better ideas for keeping the city livable, let's hear them.

Diverging from the chorus of guarded optimism are the Sun and the Press. On its Information Agent blog, the Press sources the anti-charging Daily Telegraph to question the London system as a model for New York:

There is an argument to be had for congestion pricing, and argument that sounds better to those living below 86th Street in Manhattan to those living everywhere else in the City. But the potential downside to this program does exist, and the London program should not be considered a success just because Mayor Bloomberg, or anyone else, says it is.

And now for something completely different, the Sun suggests congestion pricing revenues be invested in tax breaks, rather than transportation:

If the money is going to be used as the mayor indicated yesterday -- in mass transit schemes -- it will expand total government revenues and outlays and give congestion pricing a socialistic coloration. But if revenues from congestion pricing were used to reduce taxes on those that pay the most taxes in the first place, then it would be a step in the right direction.

Photo: rijones99/Flickr 

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