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Charles Komanoff

Kheel Plan Getting Lots of Play, Except Where It Counts

With Michael Bloomberg expressing doubts about an apparently favored proposal to move the congestion pricing boundary south to 60th Street, Newsday columnist Ellis Henican challenged the mayor yesterday to get behind the Kheel free transit plan.

[T]his is the giant carrot to accompany Bloomberg's congestion-pricing stick. Charge $16 instead of $8, the authors suggest - and add parking and taxi surcharges. Really make the drivers pay. Then take that money and make all the buses and subway free.

Bold enough for you?

Henican talked with lead author and Streetsblog contributor Charles Komanoff, who said the same approach could be applied to the LIRR, Metro-North and Jersey Transit.

Meanwhile, there's a lively discussion going on over at Second Ave. Sagas, where blogger Benjamin Kabak says he likes the Kheel plan, a lot, but sees it as too good to be true.

People in New York City are, stupidly, married to their cars. They demand below-market, on-street parking. They demand access to roads at the expense of wide sidewalks and bike lanes. They demand access to roads at the expense of common-sense bus rapid transit lanes. They demand the right to drive as though it were protected by the Constitution, and this is simply a misguided and harmful attitude.

But sadly, the ideal society where a Kheel plan could pass because it would negatively impact the people who could afford and positively impact the people who need it doesn't exist. Ted Kheel should be applauded for his vision, and his plan deserves as much attention as anything under consideration now. It's groundbreaking; it's visionary; it would work; and it just won't happen.

Setting aside the Kheel plan's chances of being taken seriously by the mayor and the Congestion Mitigation Commission, before it's over they may be among the few who aren't at least talking about it.

In related news, a new program in Chicago that will allow seniors 65 and up to take transit for free has been deluged with applicants. The AP, via WTHI in Terre Haute, IN, reports that "Governor Rod Blagojevich says response has been so strong that the state is adding a second toll-free number to accommodate callers who are registering for the program."

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