Today’s Headlines

  • City May Automatically Suspend Parking Rules When It Snows (Newsday)
  • Development Plans Show Up to 1,450 Spots in Hudson Yards (MTR
  • Bridge Tolls Remain Popular With Congestion Panel (NYT)
  • San Francisco Worries About Federal Pricing Deadline (Examiner
  • State and City Continue to Stick Riders With Transit Bill (NYT)
  • City Transit Still Working Out Glitches in Bus Arrival Signs (AMNY
  • Settlement Reached for NYC-to-Albany Amtrak Line (City Room, Sun)
  • Monorail Considered as LA Traffic Solution (LA Times)
  • New York Called Second Greenest City in US (Post)
  • Pope Says Climate Change is Over-Hyped (Daily Mail)
  • Cyclists Rally After Recent Midtown Deaths (NY1
  • Streets Memorial Site Maps Ghost Bikes (onNYTurf)
  • JF

    The idea of instituting tolls on the East River bridges has repeatedly been shot down over at least three decades, and seems to have lost none of its ability to rile opponents. “It’s dead on arrival,” said Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president. “It’s absolutely discriminatory against boroughs outside of Manhattan.

    I’m consistently amazed that there aren’t enough environmentalists in Brooklyn to get this dinosaur to stop spouting nonsense about “discrimination” every time somebody proposes tolling the bridges.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Lots of people who call themselves environmentalists own cars and shop at Fairway and Home Depot.

  • Dave

    Perhaps tolls on the East River bridges would be more palatable if it was explained the tolls would be used for the maintenance of the bridges themselves, freeing up funds for transit. I think every story should refer to the fact that tolls are simply being put back on the bridges, after being taken off in 1911.

    Of course this will be unpopular in the outer boroughs which always complain about any change in the city and cry “elitism” if they perceive it favors Manhattan.

    The truth is that Manhattan has the worst congestion (pshaw about downtown Brooklyn) and the transit system is set up to bring riders into Manhattan.

    I am tired of hearing about those people who live in areas not well-served by public transportation. It’s not like they didn’t know this when they moved into those areas and if the game changes now where they have to pay to cross a bridge so be it. Stop complaining and suck it up.

    Marty Markowitz panders to Brooklyn at the expense of Manhattan. Mayor Mike should tell him to suck it up too….

  • Larry Littlefield

    “State and City Continue to Stick Riders With Transit Bill”

    Actually, the “state and city” don’t have any money, just our money. And the fare has plunged relative to inflation over the years.

    The truth is current generations of riders, taxpayers, beneficiaries of other spending priorities, and transit worker pensioners continue to stick future generations with far higher fares and taxes for a potentially degraded transit system. But the truth isn’t politically palatable.

  • JF

    Yes, Nico, but most of them do not drive to work in Manhattan, and since it doesn’t affect them directly you’d think that they would put environmentalism ahead of Markowitz’s phony populism.

    From the Times article on transit funding:

    Still, it would be refreshing to see a last stand for mass transit. […] The state and the city have both severely shortchanged transportation for more than a decade. Instead of providing new dedicated money from general revenues as it should, the state has done the job mostly with real estate taxes that fluctuate from year to year.

    In that case, it sounds like the time to take a stand for transit was back during budget time. Why do we hear so much about transit funding when a fare increase is proposed, and nothing when a budget cut is proposed?

    And again, why did the Times endorse Pataki three times?

  • Jonathan

    I am tired of elitist know-it-alls telling people who decided where to live based on the knowledge they had at the time to “suck it up.” Whoever they are, and however many (or few) they are, they deserve the right to use political means to advance their own interests.

    Marty Markowitz is a politician. Enough said.

  • Dave

    Jonathan: I take it you live on an outer borough. Must suck for you to have such a large chip on your shoulder about it.
    I am tired of being called elitist simply for living in Manhattan and protecting my own interests which include deterring those of you in the outer boroughs from creating congestion in my neighborhood.

  • Budrick

    IT’s not the pope saying global warming is overhyped; it’s a British tabloid saying that the pope is saying global warming is overhyped.

    His actual statement is actually pretty diplomatic in its way of avoiding really taking any position on global warming

  • JF

    I am tired of elitist know-it-alls telling people who decided where to live based on the knowledge they had at the time to “suck it up.” Whoever they are, and however many (or few) they are, they deserve the right to use political means to advance their own interests.

    The problem, Jonathan, is that they don’t see anything but short-term gains as “their own interests.” It’s all about parking, driving and how the taxpayers can subsidize their unsustainable commute.

    If they were responsible, they’d think about the long-term fate of the city and the planet and realize that it’s better for everyone if they find a more convenient (to transit) job, move to a more convenient (to transit) location, or realize that their days of subsidized luxury are over and take the train or the bus like their neighbors.

  • Dave, if you live in Manhattan, chances are that you are not subject to the economic realities that would motivate (some would say force) a person, let alone a family, to choose (some would say force) to live in an area not well-served by transit. If you moved there in previous decades when the real estate situation was different, then perhaps i am misspeaking; but otherwise you need to give a little thought to why lower and middle-income New Yorkers make the housing choices they do, which in 2007 simply do not include Manhattan.

    You are being called an elitist because telling someone who has more limited options to just “suck it up” sounds really… elitist.

    The goal here should be to improve transit throughout the city and make it both the most affordable and most attractive option. for everyone, not just for those who can afford to live in Manhattan.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Most people who live in the outer boroughs do not drive.

    Most people who live in portions of the outer boroughs where most people drive do so because that is how they choose to live. But even most of those people do not try to drive to Manhattan on a weekday.

    Unless they have a parking permit. I’m telling you that permits, and other deals (building managers who park in legally required loading docks while trucks load from the street) are the key to everything here. That is who would be made to pay that isn’t paying already.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (Perhaps tolls on the East River bridges would be more palatable if it was explained the tolls would be used for the maintenance of the bridges themselves)

    How about the debt service on the billions borrowed to rebuild the bridges? Much of our infrastructure that was built with tolls is being rebuilt, at a greater cost, without them.

  • JF

    Dave, if you live in Manhattan, chances are that you are not subject to the economic realities that would motivate (some would say force) a person, let alone a family, to choose (some would say force) to live in an area not well-served by transit.

    Anne, please. Dave is too easy for you; calling someone elitist because they live in Manhattan is really too simplistic. I’ve already responded to your mistaken perspective on “transit privilege,” and you haven’t taken my response into account.

    If you want to pick on someone, try me. The last time I lived in Manhattan was 1995. I moved to Brooklyn for largely economic reasons. Since then I’ve lived in the Bronx and Queens. I don’t know any poor people who don’t live near transit. I certainly don’t know anyone who was “forced” by economic realities to live in “transit-underprivileged” areas.

    All the people I know who drive do it because of a small set of circumstances:

    1. They were born and raised drivers and just kept doing that.

    2. Driving is their way to show that they “made it,” and they would see taking the train as a humiliating defeat.

    3. They didn’t think about transportation when chosing their career or their current job, either because it didn’t occur to them or because they don’t care.

    I think it’s reasonable to tell those people to suck it up.

  • Jonathan

    Anne, thank you for your eloquent defense. Dave, I live in Manhattan, actually. JF, I agree with you 100%.

    I have learned in life never to get between a parent and his or her children or between a worker and his or her paycheck. People will do what they feel they have to do for their families and they will do what they feel they have to do for their paycheck. Telling them that they are wrong (in those situations) is a complete waste of effort.

    There are other decisions in life than how to commute. I live in an apartment myself, close to the subway, but I can certainly understand how folks with jobs and children would like to have a house with a yard for the kids to play in. And I can certainly understand how folks might choose to move to Staten Island or southeast Queens or New Jersey to a house with a yard, rather than spend decades browbeating the city to create more play spaces in their old neighborhood. So JF, I don’t see suburbanites as focused on short-term benefits but rather on their children.

    So Dave, I’m glad you don’t want more congestion in Manhattan, and I don’t either, but I’d rather build support for a proposal like Anne’s that would help make transit more attractive to everyone. And I learned in school that you don’t build support for proposals by telling them, “I’m right, you’re wrong, so let’s do this my way.” You build support by telling them, “I’m frustrated with my situation, and you are probably frustrated with your situation (maybe less so), so let’s work together to build a plan that eases both our frustrations.”

  • to be clear: i did not call Dave an elitist. I explained why someone else might call him one based on his comments.

    JF, i think some of your ideas about “transit privilege” are on target but not all. for example, you cited East New York as an area well-served by transit, but what i hear from people there is a different story. i agree with much of what you say about why people drive, which i think highlights the need for a cultural shift (“social marketing”, anyone?). but that is not going to come about by telling people their choices about careers and housing are irresponsible and they should suck it up.

    jonathan, thanks for your explanation as well. brings a bit more heart into the discussion.

  • Mark

    Outer-borough pols favor their driving constituency over their non-driving constituency. What’s the best way to change this? Outer-borough non-drivers are a political sleeping giant. Let’s quit squabbling and awaken the giant.

  • curmudgeon

    Re: the article about the Times Up re-enactment of recent mid-town cyclist deaths.

    Is the message that memorial protests and ghostbikes try to send to the city the same one that other people, namely non-cyclists, or “maybe cyclists” going to understand? In other words, what I think many people are going to take away from all these ghost bikes, memorial rides, and the like is that cycling is dangerous, will get you killed, and therefore should be avoided. The general public already greatly over-estimates the “dangers” of cycling (while under-estimating the dangers of driving), and ghost bikes & memorial rides mainly serve to re-inforce this mis-perception, without really teaching the public anything useful about how to avoid crashes while cycling.

  • Talking with a guy at my gym yesterday — an older fellow, a retired teacher, but very fit and active and young in his outlook — this very issue came up with no prompting from me.

    He told me that he doesn’t do local trips by bike because he doesn’t want to end up with a ghost bike memorial.

    Ghost Bikes, to him, say: NYC streets are way too dangerous to try biking. Given that we know the importance of “safety in numbers” in making streets safer for cyclists, that’s unfortunate.

  • Vroomfondel

    Jonathan, I think you’re too generous in your assessment of suburban motivations. Too many people have inflated expectations of what their home should be like, and they are willing to drive until they get to a place where they can afford the lifestyle they want.

    As a consequence, they degrade everybody’s quality of life through sprawl and congestion (including their own because the joy of playing landed gentry doesn’t nearly make up for the misery of a long commute). The New Yorker covered this dynamic in a great article a few months ago: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/04/16/070416fa_fact_paumgarten

    Telling drivers to “suck it up” is merely a succinct way of asking them to live sustainably within their means, and that’s a reasonable request, isn’t it?

  • Larry Littlefield

    (Outer-borough pols favor their driving constituency over their non-driving constituency. What’s the best way to change this?)

    Outer-borough pols, and the people who show up at their fundraisers, ARE the driving constituency. I’m telling you the parking permits are the key to it all.

    You don’t see many elected talking about it, do you? McCaffrey & Lipsky did, but only to propose something they see as politically impossible as a red herring alternative.

    Forget the Chevrolets and BMWs. It’s the parking permit people and the black car people and the rest of us.

    And unless there is an open seat, the parking permit people run unopposed.

  • Jonathan

    vroomfondel, I’m not an apologist for suburbanites (I never said sprawl was a good idea, or even a reasonable one). My point is a policy one: calls for people to change their behavior, when their behavior is motivated by a desire to do better for their children, fall on deaf ears.

    vroomfondel says: “Live sustainably within your means.”
    parent hears: “Move back to the city where your kids have to come straight home from school and never play outside, where the schools are subpar, where there’s no supermarket that sells fresh food, and where your youngest two kids have to share a bedroom.”

    Yesterday I visited a children’s health clinic on Prospect Avenue in the South Bronx. The environment there is so bad for kids. Supermarkets are far away. There’s no green space near housing. The traffic is terrible. The sidewalks are treacherous, making it hard to walk with a stroller. Crime is an issue. Don’t mention the asthma. But when I read some people’s comments here, I feel like they would say it’s a good neighborhood because the 2/5 trains stop right there on the corner. It’s not, and if residents decide to do what’s best for their kids by moving from transit-rich neighborhoods like the South Bronx to whatever kind of housing it appears they can afford, however far away it is, I’m not standing in their way saying “it’s not sustainable.”

    As for working to improve the community, à la nycstreets.org? Remember, PlaNYC is for 2030, at which time kids born today will be 23 years old. Who can wait that long?

  • Vroomfondel

    Jonathan,
    Don’t worry, I never thought you supported sprawl.

    I’m wondering to what extent the malaise of the South Bronx neighborhood you describe is caused by the suburban lifestyle. You say traffic is terrible — where does it come from? Sidewalks are treacherous — where do funds for road construction go? (And yes, I agree that transit alone does not a good neighborhood make; there’s more to a place than the ease of getting away from it…)

    Anyway, I agree that calls for people to change their behavior would be futile. That’s why we need financial (dis)incentives like tolls and CP. When I suggest that people live sustainably within their means, I mean in particular that they should be prepared to pay the true cost of driving. The gas tax doesn’t even come close. Right now my tax dollars are subsidizing the drivers that stink up my neighborhood and honk like mad outside my apartment. I resent that, regardless of whether they are rich or poor.

  • Chris H

    Agreed,

    The reason why parts of the city (and many cities across the country) are so poor and filled with crime is that cheap transportation (i.e. free at point of use highways) has allowed people with means to move out, causing a substantial disinvestment. As long as its cheap to live in the ‘burbs, there is only a relatively small incentive to invest in poor urban areas (many of them driven by economic development corporations). Make the ‘burbs reflect the economic, environmental and social costs of their primary mode of transportation and you make urban areas much more appealing to investment.

  • JF

    My point is a policy one: calls for people to change their behavior, when their behavior is motivated by a desire to do better for their children, fall on deaf ears.

    Two responses to that:

    1. I’m not trying to persuade them directly, I’m venting on a blog to people who at least partly share my point of view. Telling me that it’s not effective at persuading them is irrelevant.

    2. I’m not telling them what to do because I’m an environmental busybody. I’m telling the city to stop subsidizing their wasteful lifestyles, and when Marty Markowitz gives me a sob story on their behalf, I tell him (well, not even, I tell you) that they should suck it up.

    So JF, I don’t see suburbanites as focused on short-term benefits but rather on their children.

    Ooooo! Grrrrr! HULK SMASH!

    Sorry, Jonathan, I had to get that out of my system.

    I have a kid. I’m raising him in the city because I’m focused on his safety. It absolutely enrages me to see people justify their suburban lifestyles with their children, and to imply that people who stay in the city don’t care about children. I am focused on my child. RAAAR! (Sorry.)

    vroomfondel says: “Live sustainably within your means.”
    parent hears: “Move back to the city where your kids have to come straight home from school and never play outside, where the schools are subpar, where there’s no supermarket that sells fresh food, and where your youngest two kids have to share a bedroom.”

    You may be right, but you probably know it’s a false dichotomy. There are still affordable neighborhoods in the city and Hudson County that are walkable and have good transit connections, good parks and schools, and good shopping.

    The problem is that, as Chris and Vroomfondel pointed out, these people could live comfortably in the city with the services and shopping they and their families need – if the city and state weren’t using lots of money to subsidize automobile commuters. But as soon as you talk about taking that subsidy away, they scream bloody murder.

    If only there were a way for the city or state to borrow the money it needs to improve services and keep people here so that they don’t become demanding suburbanites! Oh wait, we did that already and the suburbanites took the money anyway? You see my point, right? This jackass just eats all the carrots and still doesn’t move.