The Week in Review
5:21 PM EDT on September 28, 2007
New York City Director of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, Rohit Aggarwala, takes questions at the first meeting of the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission, Tuesday.
- Back in June, a perplexed Richard Brodsky and Denny Farrell peppered Mayor Bloomberg and his top aides with a series of questions and comments aimed not so much at clarifying City Hall's congestion pricing plan but to build a case that the Mayor hasn't provided anywhere near enough information for serious-minded Assembly members possibly to consider such a plan. This scene, minus Mayor Bloomberg, repeated itself at the first meeting of the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission, or -- as it's known by pretty much anyone who isn't a member of the New York State Assembly -- the Congestion Pricing Commission. Instead of devoting a little time over the past few months to study up on the plan -- or, heck, develop a concrete alternative or two -- Brodsky and Farrell were content to repeat their June performances. Brodsky, who seems intent on proving that the federal government's promise of $354.5 million in grant money is some sort of elaborate hoax, claimed he still just "don't get it." Meanwhile, Farrell, the 33-year member of the State Assembly, seemed unfamiliar with the concept of imposing a fee in order to discourage injurious behavior, asking: "Is it a tax or is it to lower the amount of vehicles coming in?" Responded Streetsblog commenter Budrick: "For anyone who has taken at least one high school or college class onEconomics, this is an extremely frustrating question, and a scary onecoming from a politician who's been in the business of making taxes andencouraging/discouraging behaviors through public policy for decades."
- Speaking of supply and demand, writer and latent urban planning guru Gregg Easterbrook took on Donald Shoup in his Thursday ESPN sports column. Having stumbled across "The High Cost of Free Parking," in which the author "has thrown a new idea into the topic," Easterbrook has decided Shoup's thoroughly researched theories and practices miss the mark. Parking, Easterbrook says, is all about motorist stress. And it's the government's job -- and everyone else's, apparently -- to reduce it by ceding as much space to the car as possible. Easterbrook counters Shoup's "expertise" with a little back-of-the-envelope math and undeniable common sense observations, such as: "I've done the equivalent of perhaps 100 miles of walking along Manhattan streets, and never once seen a fully legal, free, on-street parking space that was open." When you're done flailing in vain to poke holes in that penetrating analysis, check out Purdue University's effort to inventory parking spots across the nation, as profiled in the Christian Science Monitor. Interestingly, the Monitor called on Shoup, not Easterbrook, for comment on the Purdue study. Perhaps if Shoup starts choosing a Cheerleader of the Week he can get a gig at ESPN too.
- The DOT appears to have finished its work on Ninth Ave. and 14th Street, quickly transforming, "one of the longest and most hectic pedestrian crossings in Manhattan" into a picturesque public plaza that Streetsblog has dubbed, "Meat Market Plaza." Already popular with Meatpacking District smokers, we think the name will stick. The Meat Market will soon be enjoyed by cyclists arriving via the city's new Ninth Ave. "cycle track," which is already under construction, and has Fifth Ave. bike riders (those who still have their bikes, anyway) clamoring for more. Moving uptown, Upper West Siders convened for the first in a years-long series of discussions on the future of street use from West 55th to 86th Streets. And waaay uptown, Inwoodites wait for the DOT and NYPD to decide which department is responsible for improvements to a deadly Broadway intersection at Fort Tryon Park.
- Upper East Side City Council Member Jessica Lappin scored big in these parts with her proposal to crack down on businesses that employ bike delivery workers. As City Room wrote, "Although she did not have statistical evidence, Ms. Lappin said shebelieved that workers who use bikes are in general less responsiblethan recreational cyclists, who, she said, were more likely to usehelmets and obey traffic laws." A presumption of Easterbrookian proportions, to be sure. Added commenter Smith: "The solution to this problem is taking away a travel or parking laneon the avenues and converting it to a two-way, separated bike pathsimilar to what DOT is doing on 9th Ave in Chelsea." Now to get that idea into the head of a nine-year-old, letter-writing Lappin constituent.
- And finally, back to congestion pricing for our quote of the week, courtesy of long-time Streetsblog commenter, Doc Barnett. A last word if ever there was: "A lot of us would love to 'ban cars,' but we know it ain't gonnahappen. And though I know pricing will work far better (and is the onlysystem that fairly rewards people not driving), I would takeMexico city or Athens style rationing over the free-for-all that wehave now. But guess what? Ain't gonna happen! This here's the USA, where resources are regulated by capitalism.It's the only way we're any good at regulating anything, and it's theway we will succeed in regulating automobile over-consumption. It mightset people's rusty old class warfare alarms off, because this is a newkind of regulation that we're being forced to engage in, but there aremore important things than that. Like saving lives. Of working peoplehit by cars, and the health of people breathing auto emissions, and themental health of everyone having to walk around, listen to the hornsof, and run out of the path of these giant iron-clad wheelchairs thatsuburbanites think they need to GO anywhere. There is nothing fair about a system that gives away an expensivepublic resource only to those above a certain income threshold whochoose to spend it on machines that are ecologically destructive andmake accidental homicide commonplace. It's time to let it go."
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