Congestion pricing - what's the problem?

On Wednesday this week, my trip from Cobble Hill to Midtown took me 90 minutes.  The subway was experiencing delays, so I went above ground at W4th and cabbed the rest of the trip.  Sadly, the taxi portion consumed more than 30 minutes because 6th and 8th Avenues were totally clogged.  This has been the case increasingly in NYC, as there are simply more automobiles on the island, than Manhattan can support on an average day.  Even in Brooklyn, the roads are jammed.  On Tuesday of this week, my drive to Coney Island (to defend a speeding ticket on the BQE, go figure) took 50 minutes. 

Just two weeks ago, Sheldon Silver and the Democratic majority of the NY State Assembly vetoed Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan in the New York City Council, preventing the measure from reaching a public vote.  While I usually vote Democratic (or even more liberally), I can't understand the ill will towards this measure from NYC representatives.  (Governor Corzine was also opposed to it, but for more obvious reasons, as he's representing his constituents in NJ.)  Automobile traffic in Manhattan has reached epic proportions.  Nobody will argue that.  Traveling by car mid-day is unbearable.  It's one of the most unattractive qualities of our great city.  Can you imagine other global cosmopolitan centers with this issue?   Traffic in LA is bad, but it's all on the freeway.   Same with San Francisco. Inner city traffic in DC, Boston or Chicago doesn't compare.  London is crowded, but all the streets are one-way which keeps traffic flowing.  Paris....no chance.  This measure would have raised an estimated $350 million in federal funds that would be used to improve and add subway capacity.  Then, drivers entering Manhattan would be charged $8 for the day.  Money also would flow towards bike lanes (an increasingly popular mode of transport) and other greener forms of movement.  While yes, some people of lesser means may have lost perceived access to Manhattan, those who truly rely on the city day-to-day would benefit greatly with increased mobility.  A city of this size needs the latest and greatest public transportation technology, and this measure would help raise the funds to pay for it.  Mayor Bloomberg called the votes against his bill cowardly and I agree on this one.  Sheldon Silver was also a major factor in stopping the Manhattan Jets stadium construction plans, a move that would have added some periodic traffic on Sundays, but one that would have revitalized Hell's Kitchen and brought a professional sports team to the NY Metro area for the first time since the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Assemblyman Silver has been in office for more than two decades and usually is elected without challengers.  Given his recent voting record, which shreaks of stagnation and fear of change/improvement, it may be time for the Assemblyman to consider his next career.   I hope Governor Patterson and Mayor Bloomberg will be able to resusitate this plan that would have benefited so many New Yorkers.

By Josh Guttman

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