Friday’s Headlines: Congestion-Pricing Slam Dunk Edition

If you want a vision of the future, picture Canal Street full of traffic forever. Photo: Joseph Tedeschi
If you want a vision of the future, picture Canal Street full of traffic forever. Photo: Joseph Tedeschi

We spent a lot of time on Thursday listening to people testify in support of (and, yes, in opposition to) congestion pricing. We didn’t hear anything that we hadn’t heard before: Some outer borough drivers feel a toll to recoup the damage drivers to do our city is an unfair tax on them; long-suffering bus riders want relief from slow speeds because of traffic; low-income residents will indeed benefit from the tolls rather than it being a tax on them; Assembly Member David Weprin remains very misinformed. Nonetheless, coverage was intense:

  • CBS-2’s car-centric political reporter Marcia Kramer naturally emphasized that congestion pricing would cost drivers “a big hunk of dough.”
  • The Staten Island Advance made an (inadvertent?) pitch for the subway: “Driving into Lower Manhattan once could soon cost New York City residents more than the price of a 7-Day Unlimited MetroCard,” was its lede.
  • amNY channeled the voice of the people.

Listening to the public comments, it’s clear how desperately we need congestion pricing. But none of the coverage of the hundreds of speakers pointed out the general silliness of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s plan to solicit hours and hours of comments from members of the public as it puts together its 16-month environmental assessment of congestion pricing. Here’s why:

  • Every minute, Detroit churns out reams of new cars — most of which are in fact small trucks (i.e., SUVs) — which have become safer and safer for their occupants but more and more lethal for pedestrians and cyclists. Where’s the 16-month environmental assessment of that?
  • Every hour, because of the dangers of car drivers, a New York City parent declines to send his or her child outside to play or go to the corner store or cross a street to meet a friend, robbing our children of independence and the opportunity for meaningful activities and growing responsibility. Where’s the 16-month environmental assessment of that?
  • Every day, more than 800,000 cars enter the Central Living District of Manhattan, choking our streets, making our neighborhoods unlivable, filling our lungs with toxins and our bodies with stress. Where’s the 16-month environmental assessment of that?
  • Every week, city speed cameras nab 100,000 cars for blowing through school zones at 11 or more miles per hour above the speed limit (and that number would be higher if the city was legally allowed to operate speed cameras 24/7 instead of just half the day, five days per week). Where’s the 16-month environmental assessment of that?
  • Every month, temperatures in New York City break the previous record. Where’s the 16-month environmental assessment of that?
  • Every year, car drivers cause roughly 210,000 crashes, injuring 56,000 people and killing 250 people in this city. Where’s the 16-month environmental assessment of that?

One Brooklynite summed up the tolling scheme well. “I am happy to contribute my part whenever I drive into Manhattan,” Sara Clugage told amNY. “Paying that fee will benefit me in the long run and will also benefit my neighbors and all New Yorkers. So please, take my money.”

In other news:

  • The MTA is refusing to provide a feasibility study on fixing the dangerously overcrowded York Street F train station in DUMBO; it promised elected officials in March that it would supply the study by June 30, the Brooklyn Paper reported. MTA flack Eugene Resnick had a disingenuous answer for the electeds, who are demanding that the station — which now serves a population of 5,975, according to the U.S. Census, more than 5.25 times what it was in 2000 — get a second entrance: “We have been in regular communication with the community and elected officials on York Street issues,” he said in a statement. “We are continuing to study a potential path forward and the study is still ongoing due to the complex nature of the station. We remain committed to briefing elected officials and community stakeholders.” In other words, nothin’ doing’. The obfuscation especially rankles when you consider that an esteemed firm of local architects has graciously proffered an exciting design for a refreshed station.
  • The City Council yesterday passed a slate of bills in order to ameliorate the intolerable working conditions of the deliveristas. Many outlets (for example, The City, in an admirably comprehensive curtain raiser) focused on pay and bathroom access. Gothamist and the Daily News both gave straightforward coverage of the six measures, including Justin Brannan’s bill that gives the workers the right to limit the distances that they will travel on behest of the app services — a key street-safety measure. The Times’s cursory report, however, excluded that important and controversial legislation, showing, yet again, that the Gray Lady is behind the curve on local coverage. Curbed went with a personal essay by a delivery worker on the deficiencies of the package.
  • ICYMI (we did): The Times did laudatory take out earlier this week on the earsplitting sound systems with which some New Yorkers outfit their cars, as if disturbing the peace and shaking pedestrians out of their boots was a signal Dominican cultural contribution to city life.
  • Finally, via Twitter, a bit of Jewish holiday cheer:

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