Weiner’s Congestion Testimony: Anything But Pricing

wienermobile.jpg
If nothing else, gridlocked traffic is a good marketing opportunity for Oscar Mayer’s Wienermobile.

US Rep. Anthony Weiner was one of the first voices to speak up against Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal for a three-year congestion pricing pilot project and he remains one of the loudest. In his testimony Oct. 25 before the NYC Traffic Mitigation Congestion Commission, Weiner — who is planning a 2009 mayoral run — consolidated his arguments, starting off with a diplomatic concession: "The Bloomberg administration has begun a very important conversation about what New York will look like in 2030 and how we prepare now for the sustainable and prosperous future." Weiner went on immediately, however, to characterize the mayor’s congestion-pricing plan as "expensive and unfair." Today, an even more boiled down version of Weiner’s proposal can be found on the New York Post op/ed page

In his testimony, Weiner outlined a seven-point alternative that has a little something for everybody. Very roughly, here’s what it boils down to:

  • Improving mass transit, including ferries and buses, before anything else is done. Weiner also outlines a plan to get 1 of 10 New Yorkers on a bike by 2020, with strategies including a pilot bike-sharing program and expanded bike-storage facilities.
  • What he calls "carrot and stick congestion pricing"– a tax credit for companies that schedule truck deliveries in off-peak hours; increased tolls during rush hour; and an increase in metered parking fees during peak hours. Weiner says these last two points "would satisfy the Department of Transportation’s requirement that some element of congestion pricing be part of the City’s plan, and thus make us eligible to collect the federal grant." (Actually, no, those ideas don’t appear to meet the federal government’s definition of "congestion pricing.")
  • Reducing reliance on trucks by building the Cross Harbor Tunnel.
  • Scaling back alternate-side parking and street-cleaning.
  • Avoiding the creation of an expensive infrastructure in order to qualify for the $354.5 million in federal funds.
  • Enforcing existing traffic laws such as "don’t block the box."
  • "Apportioning the benefits and the burden fairly–don’t pit neighbor against neighbor."

Weiner’s proposals prompted a scornful response from Transportation Alternatives. In a letter to the Traffic Mitigation Commission, TA executive director Paul Steely White said: "Congressman Weiner does nothing to help the work of this Commission by presenting an ‘alternative’ plan to mitigate congestion that includes a hypothetical blank check from the federal government to pay for it. Choices the Congressman suggests like eliminating congestion pricing, lowering truck tolls at off-peak times, providing off-hour delivery tax credits to businesses and building a cross-harbor tunnel carry an exceptionally high cost while providing no substantial revenue streams." Here’s the PDF of White’s full letter.

Jeff Zupan, Regional Plan Association’s transportation analyst, has shown why other alternatives to congestion pricing are flawed. Some of those points apply to Weiner’s plan as well.

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