First Impressions of Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC Testimony…

Did you watch Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing testimony before the New York State legislature? If so, what did you think? Here is the initial impression of John Kaehny, former executive director of Transportation Alternatives: 

Mayor Bloomberg’s advocacy for congestion pricing and public transit to a State assembly panel was the most amazing thing I have seen in 17 years of following New York City transportation reform.

For two hours the mayor, in his new role as transportation policy reformer and environmentalist, engaged with a group of Assembly members who voiced just about every myth, bias and misconception that Livable Streets advocates encounter on a daily basis. The mayor was effective and clearly understands the importance of improving public transit and getting people out of their cars. More than that, the mayor seems to have undergone a revolution in his thinking about transportation. As a result, the gap between Bloomberg’s point of view and the deeply ingrained "windshield perspective" of his questioners was palpable. By the end it seemed that the Mayor’s temper began to fray under the barrage of illogic and distorted questioning.

While Bloomberg deftly addressed most points, questions around issues of fairness and equity could have been handled better. One Assembly member, for example, asked why it is fair to charge a mom to drive her kids from the Upper West to Upper East Side. Bloomberg’s response was not forceful.

The mayor could have answered with a question in return: How is it fair that she should be able to drive for free but would have to pay to take the bus? Or he could have asked the Assembly members what is so fair about low income subway and bus riders having to pay for their city-friendly, non-polluting trips while congestion- and pollution-generating motorists cross city bridges and drive on city streets for free.

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