There Are Certain Facts That We’ve All Got to Face Up To

Given that it was only a few months ago that Mayor Michael Bloomberg could be heard saying, "We like traffic, it means economic activity, it means people coming here," his pitch for a whole new set of progressive transportation policies at last week’s meeting of the Regional Plan Association was all the more remarkable:

There are certain facts that we’ve just all got to face up to–facts about congestion’s impact on our environment, our economy, our health, and our future–on our lives, and the lives of our chlidren. Facts about how we’re going to pay for the transportation projects we need to keep our region from choking on its growth in the decades to come.

We’re ready to have a reality-based dialogue with anyone about any element of our transportation plan, including congestion pricing. We’ll talk about the boundaries of the congestion pricing zone, the fees that might be charged, the hours they would be applicable, and the methodology for administering the program.

But what we won’t do–what we can’t do–is postpone essential decisions any longer. We won’t ignore–if you’ll excuse the expression–the "inconvenient truths" of the difficult challenges we face.

Download the text here. And the speech itself can be viewed in the following three video clips courtesy of RPA:

  • JK

    I highly recommend folks read this speech. The mayor gets it. This is not just an Earthday load of rhetoric. Maybe Aaron can highlight more key sections of the speech so more Sbloggers read it. I think it is going to be really hard for the next generation of mayoral aspirants to turn back the clock and talk about “traffic as sign of success.” This is an emperor has no clothes moment, and the mayor is the little kid telling New Yorkers what they can already plainly see: traffic is a mess and there are too many cars.

  • I applaud Transportation Alternatives for advocating for congestion pricing and enjoy reading Streets Blog.

    As part of a Sustainability Watch discussion, Gotham Gazette has posted various essays looking at aspects of PlaNYC. Some deal with congestion pricing.

    “Getting the Most from Congestion Pricing” by Carolyn Konheim of Community Consulting Services particularly caught my eye on account of the below comments.

    I’m wondering if her suggestions below don’t offer a model that could be more readily implemented without the expense and privacy issues associated with instituting cameras all over New York.


    “Congestion pricing could be made simpler as well. A lot more funds would be available for transit users if the congestion fees were simply collected on the bridge spans and along 60th Street, rather than at dozens — even hundreds — of charging points south of 86th Street. Equalizing the charges on all crossings would provide a strong signal to motorists that it doesn’t pay to drive out their way to avoid tolls. While the mayor’s proposed adjustments in congestion charges levied in Manhattan may remove any advantage of untolled bridges, the complexity muddies the message.

    Instead of capitalizing on Manhattan having just four untolled entries, the proposed multiple checkpoints, exceeding London’s charging cordon, will be a lot more costly and may raise new objections to tracking motorists’ movements.”

  • SAJH

    didnt a study show that some 40-50% of personal cars come from above 59th Street. The congestion pricing would have to be on ALL crossings, even the Third Ave bridge in the bronx. The other part of the study showed that alot of cars come from the upper east and west side residents. I find that when you look down on the streets during rush hour though that it is more of a sea of yellow than anything. Most of the cars on the road are taxis. Keep the congestion but force the TLC to replace all taxis with Hybrids or have taxis that only do Manhattan routes ALL electric. The point of reducing congestion is, I would think, to keep our air cleaner. The taxi would be the first step and the second step would be to crack down on idling cars and buses that are standing. Target the MTA and tour buses and our beloved Fresh Direct trucks. The law is already in place for idling, just cops never do anything about it.

  • It seems inevitable (and appropriate) that taxis will be factored into the program with a fare tax that goes to the congestion fund. But where we are right now, all taxi trips are taxed by the city while personal car trips (in themselves) don’t provide any compensation for their exclusive use of public space and city resources. So congestion pricing first tries to level the field. Taxi fares can be increased to curb overuse at any time it’s deemed necessary.

    And it’s not just about air pollution. It’s about safety and taking back our neighborhoods from automobile dominance. It doesn’t matter if it’s commuters, tourists, deliveries, or our neighbors driving. Congestion pricing is a long-overdue framework to regulate private automobile use and thereby all of its ill effects. (To discourage engine idling, we also need a tri-state carbon tax.)


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