You're Just Like Crosstown Traffic

|

Yesterday, New York's Democratic-run Assembly killed Mike Bloomberg's plan for $8 traffic congestion charges. Today, the New York Times reveals how the Bloomberg forces screwed up.

In Albany, the commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, expressed the mayor's sentiments, saying: "You are either for this historic change in New York or you're against it. And if you're against it, you're going to have a lot of explaining to do."

Ms. Sadik-Khan's remarks were widely noted by Albany lawmakers, with some viewing her tone as condescending. So when it was revealed that the state police had pulled her over for speeding and improperly using her lights and sirens on her way to the Capitol, it only underscored what the legislators saw as the Bloomberg administration's imperious attitude.

And that was just the toothless threat. Bloomberg personally donated $500,000 to Republican state senators, who narrowly run that body… shortly thereafter, the State Senate's leader endorsed the plan. Bloomberg's political advisor, fresh off the Bloomberg-for-President draft campaign (How'd that turn out?), growled about defeating anti-congestion charge pols at the ballot box.

[Sheekey has] hinted that opponents of congestion pricing would face rejection by voters in the fall elections.

"If there are people out there who aren't helping New York City, I suppose they should fear," Mr. Sheekey said on Monday, just hours before the Assembly rejected the measure in a closed door meeting. "It's not the mayor they should worry about."

I think the Bloomberg team's punching above its weight. They had to know that polls showed a solid majority of New Yorkers against the plan, and that most Democrats in the state Assembly represent the city or its environs. They'd have to face voters boiling over with rage at their new taxes, and thanks to city council term limits there's no shortage of ambitious, bored politicians who could jump in and unseat them. Bloomberg needed to convince the city that the city's roads are a distorted market, that the revenue from congestion taxes will come back to them in public transportation, etc. and etc. You can only go so far with hype and bullying.

NEXT: Red-Headed Stranger, "The Body" See Controlled Demolition

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I don’t get why they’re so adamant about the $8 level…Why not set the fee at $5 to make it a little more palatable?

  2. I don’t get why they’re so adamant about the $8 level

    Because no tax on New Jersey scum can ever be too high!

  3. They have to do something to make it revenue-neutral, or it’s just a tax hike. Maybe reducing the bridge and tunnel tolls during certain hours?

  4. How has the city squandered its windfall on the absurdly high property taxes it has collected over the past couple of years? Let’s tax the people some more, make it unaffordable for commercial trucks, and push more people onto the already-overcrowded filthy subway system. What could go wrong??!

  5. “You are either for this historic change in New York or you’re against it. And if you’re against it, you’re going to have a lot of explaining to do.”

    No, no, no, Ms. Sadik-Khan.

    It’s “You are either for this historic change in New York or you’re with the terrorists.”

    You’ve got a lot to learn about alarmist political rhetoric, missy.

  6. Mike Bloomberg is a wealthy, tax-happy gay man… not that there’s anything wrong with that!!

  7. Since I’ve been living in NYC I’ve witnessed two increases in subway prices, while seeing exactly zero improvements in return. Giving this city anymore money in its current state of incompetance is lunacy.

  8. So hard to get through to you.

  9. This whole thing pissed me off so much. I live in Queens, I’m paying city taxes, tolls at the tunnel and certain bridges, and then you want to charge another $8 to go to a different borough during business hours? Fuck you Mr. Bloomberg.

    Although I wouldn’t really call NYC property taxes “absurdly high.” Check out Nassau county for that.

  10. and push more people onto the already-overcrowded filthy subway system. What could go wrong??!

    Every seen India’s subway/rail system.

  11. I don’t get why they’re so adamant about the $8 level

    Because no tax on New Jersey scum can ever be too high!

    Like ska alluded to that was part of the (political) problem.

    Even though everyone would have paid 8 bucks, Queens & Brooklyn residents would be paying the full amount to the congestion price, but Newarkers and Hackensackers would have had their hudson river tolls deducted – the 8 bucks wasn’t cummulative.

  12. Khaaaan!

    Sorry. It was going to be said eventually.

  13. [Ever] seen India’s subway/rail system[?]

    Bloomberg’s dream for the V line.

  14. Bloomberg needs to go down to Curitiba Brazil for some ideas on how to address this issue.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curitiba#Urban_Planning

    Slick system.

    Highest public transportation usage in the Western Hemisphere (iirc).

    Japan seems to have worked this out pretty well too.

  15. Bloomberg’s dream for the V line.

    More like a John Rocker nightmare.

  16. Uh…how are they going to collect these charges? Will there be toll booths on every access point? Will toll-less bridges such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge now have tolls on them? What about the FDR or West Side Highway? They can’t put a toll booth on the access, because you could get off before 86th St. and not be elegible for a toll. So will they have a toll booth at every exit underneath 86th St? What if you get off at 96th St. and then drive down 5th Ave?

    Bloomberg is a fucking moron.

  17. Bloomberg needed to convince the city that the city’s roads are a distorted market

    Roads paid for and maintained by the city? Supported only partially by a gas tax? In place largely because of eminent domain? Patrolled by cops paid for by city dollars? Driven on by taxis whose numbers are artificially limited? Well, I certainly don’t see any economic distortion there…

  18. http://www3.iclei.org/localstrategies/summary/curitiba2.html

    More on Curitiba.

    If an area is so congested to need congestion pricing…try turning it into a pedestrian only area, and provide efficient transportation options to that area. Priced equally from any point in the city, that makes the financial burden less regressive, since the rich in Manhattan are paying the same as those farther out to use the transportation option, they subsidize the cost of access for those outside the city.

  19. Im not the only soul – accused of hit and run
    Tire tracks all across your back
    I can, I can see you had your fun
    But Bloomberg cant you see my signals turn from green to red
    And with you I can see a traffic jam straight up ahead

  20. Warren,

    I’m not the only soul – accused of on hit and run…

    Better?

  21. They actually were discussing enforcement by camera, if I recall correectly.

  22. This is the best news I’ve heard all day. Bloomberg wanted less cars on the road for his billionaire buddies by trying to force through a regressive tax.

    If he’s really concerned about vehicular congestion, why not make a yearly fee a tiny proportion of reported income, say .1%? That way the poor coffee cart guy pays $50 on his 50K salary for a yearly pass while bloomberg pays $100,000 on his 100,000,000 salary?

  23. Neu Mejican,

    Why turn it into a pedestrian-only area, if you’ve already supplied the good public transit? Why not leave the choice in place?

    Pedestrian-only zones are a reaction to the behavior of drivers on modern, highway-like roads. Those types of roads, that type of driving behavior, certainly does threaten pedestrian life – both figuratively and literally.

    But the old city centers that do function well for pedestrians and transit riders mostly have cars as well. The just have road designs that take all the users into account.

  24. I would think that congestion pricing for the center city would be pretty detrimental in a lot of ways. It could promote car-pooling more, but if there isn’t sufficient capacity on the public transit system to pick up the affected people, it could lead to more serious problems than they’re trying to solve.

  25. i hate idiots like Bloomberg because they take the idea of a good tax like this (oh no! libertarian saying there’s a good tax!) and pile it on so many other bad taxes that nobody will listen to the good tax because they’re overwhelmed by the bad tax.

  26. The subways are massively crowded during rush hour as it is, especially on the East Side. Not allowing cars there would make it unbearable as people would park in the Bronx or above 86th St and then take the subway. This is inconceivable without the 2nd Ave subway line, which has been wanted for decades.

  27. “””They actually were discussing enforcement by camera, if I recall correectly.”””

    I’m not sure if cameras would really work. Bumper to bumper traffic and cars blocking the box would probably make it difficult. I was thinking they would have to do something RFID like EZPass.

  28. “””Since I’ve been living in NYC I’ve witnessed two increases in subway prices, while seeing exactly zero improvements in return. Giving this city anymore money in its current state of incompetance is lunacy.””””

    That the MTA for you. I was debating this with someone else and I ask him to give me one example when the MTA honored a promise they give when they want a fair hike. As much as I don’t like Guiliani, I have to give him credit, every time the MTA wanted a fair hike, he made a stink about it. He stood up for NYCers not the MTA. Bloomberg, who did a lot of business with the MTA always takes the MTA’s side. As I say about Bloomberg, he never met a fair increase he didn’t like.

  29. Vic, maybe Bloomberg would come out against a fare hike?

  30. Since I’ve been living in NYC I’ve witnessed two increases in subway prices, while seeing exactly zero improvements in return.

    Not surprising, considering the Fed increases the money supply by about 10% per annum.

    I wonder, though – how many improvements have you seen on America’s roadways?

  31. Uh…how are they going to collect these charges?

    Episiarch, see: Central London. Been done. Lots of cameras. You are being vatched!

  32. If an area is so congested to need congestion pricing…try turning it into a pedestrian only area, and provide efficient transportation options to that area.

    Neu, there are so many variables which this kind of plan, that it’s hard to even respond as to why that (probably) wouldn’t work in almost any American city. Unfortunately, we would just end up in a ‘linking’ war, and the first person to link to a photo of a smarty-pants looking man with patches on his tweed jacket would declare victory.

    But seriously, public transit alone is a lot like putting all of your eggs in one basket. I think that joe is spot on with his response to you in this vein.

    A few of the variables that come into mind are geographic (city size, state size, COUNTRY size), cultural, political, economic. The list goes on. Plus, as I’ve found, there are different definitions of “success” when it comes to public transportation systems. For instance, Seattle pols are convinced that Portland’s transportation system is a one to emulate.

  33. There’s a certain logic here. Reducing the number of cars would make transit work better (and reduce pollution). And, no, I’m not talking about subways-I’m talking about buses, which are very, very slow in NYC due to the heady traffic.

    In any case, a London-style congestion charge was the wrong way to go about accoplishing this. The way to go would be to increase the tolls and tunnels for all bridges leading into Manhattan during peak periods, with the money raised going into more buses and subway cars. It’s an island, this is easy; you don’t need big brother cameras taking pictures and people having to buy day passes to drive in the city. Almost nobody drives from one point inside Manhattan to another anyways, so internal traffic wouldn’t be a problem.

    Now, there is of course a further question of whether or not this is a proper role of government, of course. But Manhattan is so crowded and polluted and traffic is so heavy I believe a case could very well be made. But that case would have to be made by a more skilled politician than Mr. Bloomberg.

  34. The just have road designs that take all the users into account.

    Turning all the avenues back into normal two-way streets instead of the current six-lane expressways would be a good start. Jane Jacobs FTW. (Anecdotally, I recall on one of my first trips to Toronto, wondering why there were no pedestrian streets at all downtown. Turns out the streets are rather narrow and littered with streetcars too. Built-in traffic calming.)

    As I say about Bloomberg, he never met a fair increase he didn’t like.

    But without regular fare increases, the Right whines that the subways aren’t “paying their own way”. You can’t have it both ways. PS. There *have* been huge improvements, such as most of the stations in Manhattan being renovated, hundreds of new cars, tons of track work, but I don’t think any of these are paid for out of fares. But much more of this sort of thing is needed in order to bring real service improvements–which was the whole justification for the $8 in the first place.

    The way to go would be to increase the tolls and tunnels for all bridges leading into Manhattan during peak periods

    I had the same thing in mind–and it would have been shot down for the same reasons as this was (mainly, appeals to class).

  35. Jane Jacobs is full of win.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.