Media (Mostly) Give PlaNYC Its Due

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 

  • crzwdjk

    Congestion pricing should be used to pay for roads. In the end, road construction and maintenance should come exclusively from fees paid by car owners, whether in direct taxes on cars, or indirect ones on gasoline or congestion charges.

  • Rob

    No they shouldn’t, the roads system is already given way more then its due by the federal government. Meanwhile mass transportation is ignored.

  • Nicolo Macchiavelli

    crzwdjk makes his point. And it is a commonly held, prevailing wisdom, point of view. The problem is that he is wrong. The costs and benefits of the different transportation modes are not easily and accurately defined, categorized and segmented. And, there is not real reason to do so. The economies and diseconomies, opportunity costs and benefits flow all over the place and have to be analyzed in terms of a much more important quality of life calculation. The view that when something comes from “roads” it must be returned to “roads” is both naive and ahistorical. Especially in NYC but world wide as well. It is windshield thinking prevailing naivete.

  • nimby pimby

    I think you’re missing crzwdjk’s larger point (she/he can correct me if I’m misinterpreting). His point could be that the cost of driving should reflect the cost of roads. That is, if roads were only paid for by fees to drivers (rather than through other tax revenue) then the true cost of driving would be seen and borne by every person who chooses to drive. The problem with that argument, though, is that it would require a change in national policy as well as changes to state and city policy even more drastic and dramatic than congestion pricing.

  • Owen

    The system of free roads and everyone’s entitlement to roads is what is socialistic, no matter what the Sun says. Given that, providing roads and not mass transportation is inequitable. This fact remains, independent of one’s opinion on the quality of life that comes with transportation options.

  • rich

    I’m very glad at Bloomberg’s political gesture toward a sustainable NYC. But there is one incredibly important aspect of a sustainable, low-carbon city: LOCALLY GROWN FOOD!!! NYC needs its farmer’s markets, and CSA just as much as it needs less cars on the road. When your spinach is grown in California, and your garlic comes from china, it has to spew tons and tons of carbon in the the atmosphere before it gets to your plate.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Rich, the federal government can do something about that – or in this case, refrain from doing something:

  • Rick Stagg

    I disagree with the thesis of this article. The editorial boards are not the same as the reporting. The reporting has been weak.

    The equal-time press is bending over backwards to feature completely unsubstantiated nonsense by pricing opponents like Walter McCaffrey. Sheldon Silver is quoted in the Daily News as concerned about the impact on business. Good reporters or editors would make sure to put the quote in conext by mentioning that the biggest business group, the Partnership, is one of the biggest pricing boosters. But the News did not bother.

    Other elected imbeciles like Joan “that poor mechanic with his tools on the subway” Millman are quoted at length without any attempt to “balance” the imagined hardshop she conjures up with the far, far larger benefits of reduced traffic in city neighborhoods and a new funding source for a transit system in a serious crises. Joan Millman’s downtown Brooklyn district is projected to have a one third reduction in traffic, and might benefit more than any other place in the city from congestion pricing.


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