Today’s Headlines

  • Reason Guy Says Congestion Pricing Should Increase Capacity and Speed (NYT)
  • Cab Driver’s Congestion Fix: No More Street Fairs and Pedicabs (News
  • ‘Save the Fare’: A Grandstanding Tradition Since 1904 (Second Ave Sagas)
  • For G Line Riders, Even an ‘F’ Looks Good (NYT
  • Bereaved Brooklyn Brewery Founder Speaks Against ‘Culture of Cars’ (Bklyn Paper)
  • Woman Hit by Chinatown Charter Bus; No Charges Filed (NYT, Post, AMNY, News)
  • Two Hit at Same Intersection in 90 Minutes; No Charges Filed (News)
  • Law Would Ban Student Drivers From Campuses (Newsday)
  • Chicago Alleys Get Permeable Pavement (NYT)
  • Recycling Asphalt in Gowanus (NYT)
  • Ford Chair Frustrated That Others Aren’t Developing Alternate Fuels (NYT)
  • gecko

    re link: “Ford Chair Frustrated That Others Aren’t Developing Alternate Fuels (NYT)”

    With urban vehicles scaled down in size slightly smaller than “Smart Cars” ( the alternate energy source can easily be human energy (combined with electric).

    Just that simple.

  • Jonathan

    Since the mayor’s plan proposes “congestion” pricing, apparently every concerned New Yorker is now free to have his or her own take on how to reduce “congestion” published in a major metropolitan daily. The two plans cited in this wrap-up are pretty much scraping the bottom of the barrel for shopworn, discarded, unfeasible ideas for making traffic get from one place to another faster.

    Mayor Bloomberg, I think I would have preferred a plan that in its name touted the health benefits of reducing motorcar emissions, or the social benefits of pedestrianizing thoroughfares, or the safety benefits of reducing motor vehicle crashes, instead of just putting a price tag on “congestion.”

  • Larry Littlefield

    Where was all the talk about enforcement before congestion pricing was proposed?

    Does this mean the legislature will permit red light cameras everywhere? How about “block the box” cameras? Cameras to photgraph the license plates of those riding down the left lane on the FDR Drive and then cutting in ahead of everyone else waiting to get on the Brooklyn Bridge? The political class giving up the permits? With whom enforcing this?

    Once CP is gone, they’ll go back to pushing back against enforcement. Remember when Giuliani sought to expand his campaign against quality of life offenses by the poor to quality of life offenses by the affluent and middle class. “One city one standard” lasted about one month.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    From the first Sam Staley article:

    How we live influences how we travel. If we live on a farm, we are going to travel by car. Buses simply don’t go out to farms to pick people up and take them into town for work or to buy groceries. Trains don’t either.

    If anyone needed an illustration of how poorly-informed and willingly clueless Staley and Balaker are, this is one.

    Buses and trains may not go out to farms now, but they certainly did in the past. Anyone who’s read Thomas the Tank Engine or Kingdom by the Sea knows that the British Isles were once criss-crossed with branch lines that could make flag stops at just about any farm in the country. The branch line trains regularly stop to bring people from farms and villages into towns for shopping.

    It was similar in the U.S. My father told me stories about trains making milk-run stops at farms in Texas and Wisconsin. I’m sure that Staley’s sprawly subdivision had decent train service when it was a farm.

    I still have no idea why the papers print these badly-researched fantasy pieces.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    From the Chip Stern piece:

    Want to get to LaGuardia at rush hour? Go up to 124th St. and Third Ave. to avoid the FDR Drive traffic, and you will see 124th St. backed up for several blocks because the street between Second and Third Aves. is virtually impassable due to lack of enforcement of No Standing laws.

    Yeah, I’m sure the people who live on 124th Street love having airport traffic going past their front doors all the time. Here’s an idea: imagine how much 124th Street would be backed up if there were only local traffic there? Probably not enough for anyone to notice.

    I love these people. They’re all for enforcement as long as it’s someone else who’s bearing the brunt of it.

  • Ed

    Yes I love how so many people say all you need is better enforcement. One traffic cop at every intersection should do it. And with about 2000 intersections in Manhattan below 125th Street, that program would only cost the City about a billion dollars a year. No need to come up with congestion solutions that might require less enforcement.

  • Nona

    It’s good that congestion pricing is raising the problem of no traffic law enforcement.

    Instead of dismissing the issue, we should continue to flag for city government that this and the abiding problem of privileged parking makes it more rather than less difficult for New Yorkers to seriously entertain congestion pricing and other smart transportation policies.

  • Spud Spudly

    124th Street between 3rd and 2nd Avenue is a street I’ve driven many times on the way to the Triboro Bridge. There’s a police precinct that has its rear/garage/parking lot entrance there, and if there’s anyone double parking it’s usually a cop’s private car. That being said, I’ve never seen the street totally blocked except for the construction that’s taking place on the corner of 3rd Ave and 124.

  • Jonathan

    Nona, I would say the exact opposite: the arbitrary and expensive nature of agent-based anticongestion measures is opening the door for CP and other pricing schemes. Rather than continue to beat the dead horses of better enforcement and parking permit abuse, let’s come up with a system that doesn’t rely on unprecedented cooperation from law enforcement.

    I’d rather have cops fighting crime, finding runaway children, and protecting the vulnerable from abuse than writing traffic tickets.

  • Steve

    I agree with Jonathan, although added traffic enforcement against violations that truly pose a danger as compared to an inconvenience would be welcome. As for the inconvenience-causing violations, other road users should non-violently confront the offender the way they might if a person cut them on the line for a movie or public restroom, or blocked a seat on the bus or subway with their belongings. We don’t need cops to waste their time with that kind of enforcement.

  • This quote from Staley says it all:
    “Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s politically bold congestion pricing plan attacks road congestion by diverting travelers from cars to mass transit — again, telling people to stay out.”

    I guess the Reason Foundation believes that, if you take public transportation, you are not a person.

  • I had a cab driver this weekend who said that the problem with the congestion pricing proposal is that it won’t charge enough. He said it should be $25-$50 to make an impact.

    He also actually had good things to say bikes and how they should be better accommodated, but of course was not a fan of pedicabs. He thought transit should free.

    I have his number, if anyone wants a quote. He says he freelances for the Wall Street Journal but drives 72 hours a week.

  • clipped

    I’m not sure why the paper printed Staley’s piece, other than the fact that he probably got it on time. That, and it’s simple (weak) enough that it’s clear the less you think about it.

    After a second, though, I’m confused. To assume sprawl is natural rather than socially constructed is silly. It’s easy to say transportation infrastructure is needed, but why not talk about what types of infrastructure? Who benefits from the changes he’s looking for? What does he say about balancing these with other public services?

  • “Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s politically bold congestion pricing plan attacks road congestion by diverting travelers from cars to mass transit — again, telling people to stay out.”

    That’s funny, Charles, I had a different reading of that same quote. It seems to indicate that the Reason Foundation believes that mass transit somehow keeps people out of Manhattan. I always thought that mass transit was what allows so incredibly many people to live, work, visit and commute into Manhattan.

  • Vroomfondel

    I rather disagree with Jonathan. The way I see it, traffic is a much bigger problem than crime. Just take the extreme example of violent, premature death: Most murder victims know their killer. Since my social circle exclusively consists of mild-mannered people, my odds of being murdered are fairly slim. My odds of being run over by a maniacal driver, on the other hand, are much higher; I meet a few of those every day.

    Now, I realize that this attitude is a luxury that I can only afford because crime is way down in this city. Still, I’d like to see the police investigate traffic fatalities with the same vigor that goes into the investigation of homicides. No more of this no-charges-filed nonsense, please. Also, how about a zero-tolerance policy for those offenses that affect my quality of life, such as frivolous honking and disregard for bike lanes?

  • Jonathan

    Vroomfondel, I commend you for rooting criminals out of your social circle, but your post comes across as a mite selfish.

    Double-parking, even in the bike lane, is only a violation. A policy of encouraging highly paid police officers to write traffic violations when they could be enforcing orders of protection and finding runaway mentally ill children is a waste of tax dollars (although the ticket revenue does slightly compensate).

    As for traffic fatalities, a police report is required for nearly every crash involving a motorcar, and every crash that involves a death. “This no-charges-filed nonsense?” The police don’t file charges, the district attorney does; haven’t you ever watched Law & Order?

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Where are all those “highly paid” police officers Jonathon, Suffolk County? And funny, in Nassau and Suffolk they spend way more time writing traffic tickets than do the underpaid cops in NYC. Still, there is an epidemic of traffic deaths, especially young people, on Long Island. Automobile violations are very serious criminal acts, speeding, red-light violations, even blocking the box is a very serious safety issue forcing pedestrians out into the flow of traffic. It is safer to play with a loaded gun.

  • Jonathan

    Niccolo, in 2005, the most recent year on file deaths by firearm in NYC outnumbered deaths by motor vehicle.

    The Long Island references confuse me. Despite the widely publicized low starting salaries, the city police are still highly compensated, when you figure in their benefits, including their lush pensions and opportunities for lucrative part-time work.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    That’s a fascinating document, Jonathan, but you should warn people that it’s a 77 page PDF file!

    Deaths by firearm barely outnumber deaths by motor vehicle by my calculation, and the key is suicide. Tables 14-19 on pages 25-26 give a total of 413 firearm deaths, including 78 suicides and three “events of undetermined intent.”

    There are only 380 “accidental” deaths by motor vehicle, but there are 35 suicides by “jumping or lying before moving object.” If we assume that all those moving objects are motor vehicles, we have 415 deaths. Probably some of them are people jumping in front of trains, but there’s no breakdown.

    Discounting suicides, it’s 335 deaths by firearm versus 380 deaths by motor vehicle.

  • Jonathan

    Angus, I noticed the suicide caveat, too, but Niccolo did mention “play with a loaded gun,” so I figured those stats were fair game.

    Sorry about the length of the file!

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    True enough, but if I’m reading the charts right, playing with a loaded gun only accounted for three deaths in 2005.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Thanks for leaping to my defense Angus, I needed it for once again letting my rhetoric get in front of my reasoning.

    As to the wage and benefit differentials between the NYPD and the suburban departments there is not a single wage and benefit standard by which the city cops exceed their suburban counterparts. Only one of many reasons why so many city cops run to a job in the burbs at the first opportunity.

    Yeah, city cops have pensions, so do the suburban forces. Excellent pensions. And when your pension, regardless of formula, is on a base salary that is about 100% higher it will pay out pretty damn well.

    But I think the central point is that traffic violence is not “real crime” in the sense that gun violence is. There is a kernel of truth to this. Most automobile violence is not intentional and pre-meditated in the normal sense like say, holding up a liquor store.

    Apparently many drivers think it is OK to drive 50 mph past Flatbush and Atlantic when traffic will permit. If they hit someone it was not their intention to do so.

    I think “depraved indifference” is a nice turn of phrase for this sort of psychology and though I have absolutely no expertise in legal matters I, personally, would like to see those kind of charges brought more often.

    I do think it is entirely valid to draw some lessons from Crime Fighting 911 Hero Giuliani when breaks his arm patting himself on the back for the “broken windows” theory. I believe that those who run red lights, tailgate and speed are much more likely than others to do automobile violence to other drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists who dare share road space with them.

    But I stick by my original position that the cops in the burbs make a whole lot more money than city cops and also do a whole lot more traffic enforcement.

  • Vroomfondel


    More to the point, the police don’t file charges and neither does the district attorney, at least for traffic fatalities. (And yes, I’ve watched more Law & Order than I care to admit; it’s one of the reasons I got rid of my TV…) In any case, the DA acts upon investigations conducted by the police, and the police are entirely too eager to blame any pedestrian/cyclist death on the victim.

    Your suggestion that a police officer can either write tickets or fight serious crime is a false dichotomy. The police do lots of things that are a bigger waste of tax dollars than writing traffic tickets, such as the enforcement of antiquated blue laws. Moreover, the fact that many instances of reckless driving are “only” a violation merely indicates that the laws messed up.

    As for the charge of selfishness, is it really bad if I try to understand what the numbers mean for me? The document you posted only lists overall homicides; I’d like to see what’s left when you discount gang wars, drug deals gone bad, and crimes of passion. Chances are that this kind of breakdown will confirm my original claim that road-raging drivers are a much bigger threat to my health than gun-wielding thugs. I pay taxes, too — shouldn’t my concerns count, at least a little?

    On a conciliatory note, my original post was partly tongue-in-cheek, intended to challenge common assumptions and spark a little debate. The underlying point, however, is serious: People are afraid of all the wrong things while being complacent about genuine risks. The tendency to solve the wrong problem (hair gel on planes!) permeates all areas of life, law enforcement in particular.

  • Larry Littlefield


    The NYC police have grabbed a series of pension enrichments, offset by lower pay and benefits for new hires. As a result the average NYC police officers is well off, but the average well off NYC police officer is retired to Florida.

    In addition to lots of money going to those no longer working, we have lots of police officers. Officers per 100,000 people in 2006 NYC 566, rest of NY state 229, U.S. average 207.

    In comparison, public school employees per 100,000 people NYC 1,825, rest of NY State 2,819, U.S average 2,220.

    Thanks to high numbers and rich pensions, NYC police spending is very, very high as a share of the income of NYC residents, despite low pay for new police officers. We’ve been scamed, and so have newer generations of cops.

    I compile and post detailed data like this each year as it comes out from the U.S. Census Bureau. Look back to my Room 8 posts from April, May and June if you want the spreadsheets.