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Bill de Blasio

If de Blasio Had a Coherent Transportation Policy He’d Stand a Chance Against Cuomo

Photo: Mayor’s Office

Sandwiched around the terrific news that Prospect Park will soon be car-free forever, it's been another exasperating week for streets and transportation policy in New York. Mayor de Blasio put out one dud of a traffic management plan, while Governor Cuomo aimed a firehose of petty aggression in the mayor's direction.

Generally speaking, Cuomo doesn't occupy the moral high ground in these confrontations, but he's been able to land more punches since he staked out a position in support of congestion pricing. We still don't know exactly what Cuomo has in mind, but congestion pricing is a major policy reform that the enlightened political commentariat and a broad coalition of advocates can rally behind.

What New Yorkers need is a mayor who can engage in these tactical fights with the governor while looking out for the public interest. We don't want to just watch a bloody political melee about how to fix transit and traffic in NYC -- we want transit and traffic to get fixed. Unfortunately, de Blasio is almost always off-balance and unable to steer Cuomo's aggression in a productive direction, even when opportunities present themselves.

Last night I posted a Twitter thread about this dynamic, and why the mayor's position vis a vis Cuomo would be stronger if he was firmly anchored to basic principles of good urban transit and transportation policy.

We're knee-deep in preparations for our Streets Ball benefit (get your tickets while you can -- it's a great cause and you'll have a great time), so instead of translating the thread into an 800-word post, I'm going to embed it all right here. Apologies for the limitations of the format.

The mayor's goal, such as it is, has been to limit the political damage in each little skirmish with Cuomo. He'll never win this way.

— Streetsblog New York (@StreetsblogNYC) October 24, 2017

Only way to win is to formulate clear policy goals and engage in negotiations/combat with Cuomo to achieve them. De Blasio's not doing this.

— Streetsblog New York (@StreetsblogNYC) October 24, 2017

His signature transit initiatives - ferries, streetcar - are laughable coming from someone styling himself as a fighter for low-income NYers

— Streetsblog New York (@StreetsblogNYC) October 24, 2017

"Fair Fix" (millionaire's tax) is also incoherent & includes no demands re: how to spend $ to fix subways. It's a pile of money - for Cuomo!

— Streetsblog New York (@StreetsblogNYC) October 24, 2017

If Cuomo is serious about congestion pricing, de Blasio now has real leverage to make some demands and shape the policy toward his goals.

— Streetsblog New York (@StreetsblogNYC) October 24, 2017

You want more economic fairness in the way transportation services are priced? Congestion pricing could fund discount fares for poor NYers.

— Streetsblog New York (@StreetsblogNYC) October 24, 2017

But de Blasio has such a poor understanding of what constitutes fair transportation policy in NYC, he never reaches this point.

— Streetsblog New York (@StreetsblogNYC) October 24, 2017

Meanwhile, he's alienating advocates right and left because his twitchy reactions to Cuomo are increasingly indefensible.

— Streetsblog New York (@StreetsblogNYC) October 24, 2017

He seems untethered from core concepts like the importance of bus priority, or the need for MTA cost reform, or how poor NYers get around

— Streetsblog New York (@StreetsblogNYC) October 24, 2017

If his transportation policy was grounded in these first principles, he could be making huge breakthroughs.

— Streetsblog New York (@StreetsblogNYC) October 24, 2017

Maybe he's got some brilliant post-election transportation strategy waiting in the wings but so far there's no sign of it. //

— Streetsblog New York (@StreetsblogNYC) October 25, 2017

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