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Tom Vanderbilt Dissects “The ‘E’ Word”

5:43 PM EDT on July 31, 2009

eword.jpgImage: Reclaim

In the latest issue of TA's Reclaim, "Traffic" author Tom Vanderbilt revisits the May New York Magazine profile of Janette Sadik-Khan, and its portrayal of projects like car-free Broadway as tributes to the city's oft-mythologized non-driving "elite."

Vanderbilt's piece, entitled "The 'E' Word," deconstructs what he considers one of the most "abused word[s] in contemporary political discourse."

A few facts -- "stubborn things," as Reagan called them -- are in order. The most obvious thing to note is that car drivers make up a verysmall portion of the commuter population -- 16.9 percent of travelersinto the proposed "congestion zone" of Manhattan, and that includestrucks. And as the New York City Independent Budget Office has found,those people who do drive into Manhattan have a median annual incomethat exceeds other commuters by some 28.6 percent. And yet it's thecyclists who are elite.

Council Member Liu complained that Sadik-Khan's job is not to be a"visionary." Rather it's to strike a "balance between all the entitiescompeting for street space." Well, let's think about that "balance"under the status quo so beloved by Liu. In regards to the Times Squareproject, the space under consideration currently hosts nearly seventimes as many pedestrians as vehicles. And yet how much space wasdevoted to those pedestrians? 11 percent.

Of course, what else but propaganda such as this would we expect from a publication produced by Transportation Alternatives -- the group that, according to one anonymous New York Mag source, "is literally writing
transportation policy in the city of New York -- unchecked."

Carry on, TA overlords. We look forward to future elitist measures like parking reform, car-free parks and, naturally, the ultimate prize of the ruling class: congestion pricing.

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