So, after much deliberation and a commendable public input process, the Mayor's Congestion Mitigation Commission has approved its recommendation.
For more details on how the voting went and a break-down of the press coverage of the plan, visit www.streetsblog.org.
From here, the City Council must approve the plan when it goes before them on March 28. The City Council must vote to approve the "Implementation Plan," send a home rule message to the state legislature. A home rule message is a request from a city or town council to the state legislature asking them to vote on legislation affecting only that town or city.
What do you think of the plan? Will it get approved by the council? But more importantly, will it actually cut congestion in Manhattan?
After a series of recent public forms and lengthy study of the plan, the Mayor's commission on congestion pricing will recommend today a plan that largely backs Mayor Bloomberg's original vision of the fee-based traffic idea, but does not include his proposed 86th Street boundary.
The recommendation would charge drivers entering Manhattan from above 60th Street $8 between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Drivers traveling by car within the zone would be exempt from any fees, but a $1 taxi surcharge and higher parking rates would be enforced to decrease traffic below the northern boundary. The commission's recommendation must be approved by the state Legislature, the governor, and the City Council.
For more on the likely recommendations from today's NY Sun, click here.
Following its hearing in Manhattan earlier this week, the Traffic Mitigation Commission is holding its final hearing on congestion pricing in Brooklyn next Thursday before it issues its final recommendations on January 31. If you care about this issue (and we know many visitors to this website feel traffic congestion is an important urban livability issue) then you should go to:
Medgar Evers College
1650 Bedford Avenue at Crown Street
@ 6:00 p.m., on Thursday, January 24
If you plan to speak at the hearing, you must RSVP in advance. Click here to download the form. You can also e-mail written testimony if you'd like to testify but are unable to present.
An article in Tuesday's New York Times covering a new report from the city's Independent Budget Office suggests that most of the drivers who would be affected by the Mayor's controversial congestion-pricing proposal would be from outside the city, and have substantially higher incomes than in-city drivers. However, the report also suggests that while the plan would raise revenues from car-driving non-city residents it would potentially penalize city government workers who drive to work.
Government workers, according to the report, constitute nearly 20% of drivers, with police, fire and other emergency service drivers constituting nearly another fifth of the non-city residents potentially affected by the plan. This, says the Times article's author, Sewell Chan, does not bode well for the success of the proposal. Now, this blog, can see why emergency services should be exempt from a congestion-charge but why should general government office workers get special dispensation? They already get subsidized or free parking which promotes car use, should they also be exempt from a charge designed to cut pollution and congestion for all New Yorkers? Aren't they supposed to be working for the benefit of the city and its residents?
Moreover, if such "key workers" (fire, police, ambulance, teachers, doctors, nurses, government officials etc) are so important to the city, and need to have access to their offices quickly, would it not make sense for the city government to institute some kind of key worker assistance program that offered them some sort of housing subsidy? This is done in London and many cities in the UK where swift access to places of work for such people has been identified as a priority, and key workers have their accommodation subsidized to enable them to purchase homes close to their place of work.
After all, if you exclude whole classes of people from the congestion-charge aren't you failing to reduce congestion as much as has been judged to be optimal? And, if those excluded drivers are still sitting in traffic, where is the improvement? Isn't the whole point of the congestion-charge proposal to make New York City more livable, more efficient and less polluted, instead of inconvenient for certain people, depending on their employer? read more...
Streetsblog covers an article in Crain's New York Business from yesterday about potential changes to the congestion pricing plan that would reduce the size of the area (from 86th to 60th streets) and remove hundreds of cameras from the plan. The changes would also offer discounted or free entry to drivers from New Jersey and Long Island, drastically increase fees for on-street parking, and impose higher taxes on garage parking.
The reason for these changes is that the committee reviewing Mayor Bloomberg's congestion-pricing proposal believe that there is shaky support for some elements of the plan and that it would not create enough revenue for the MTA to offset the investments in public transportation infrastructure a reduction in car use would necessitate. However, with a January 31 deadline looming for a final proposal and a workable plan, there seems to be much work to be done. Kathryn Wilde who represents the city council on the review committee is quoted as saying,
"Changing the plan will mean revisiting all the concessions and considerations involved with the MTA and Port Authority in particular, but also the state Department of Transportation, the state of New Jersey and the jurisdictions of Long Island and Westchester. It's just not that simple."
The big question the article raises though, is not about whether the needs and desires of all the agencies involved can be accommodated, but rather whether the plan (if it ultimately contains these provisions) will still be eligible to receive the $354.5 million federal grant if it is more focused on raising revenues from parking fees than reducing congestion in Manhattan.
So, what do you think? Are these changes going to improve or water-down the plan? And what happened to the MTA budget surplus we keep hearing about?
Andrew Wolf asks in today's New York Sun that the Mayor allow us to "enjoy congestion." In In Praise of Congestion he notes that in driving into the city he is contributing to the economy both in purchasing whatever he came into the city for and by paying the various tolls and parking fees, and that many like him might be dissuaded from entering the city if a congestion charge were imposed. Thus, the city, by being greedy, would be cutting off its nose to spite its face.
All of which might be quite logical, but he rather ruins it by throwing in a peculiar non sequitur. He admits that the stores he frequents have no parallels nearer to his home, and therefore, he will continue to shop in the city until such a time as "Mr. Zabar... open(s) a branch of his magnificent market" in Scarsdale, and then he wonders if the mayor should really be impeding "commerce among those of us who can point their cars in any direction?" Clearly, he is not amongst those who can point their cars any which way they like unless he is prepared to forgo his favorite Zabar's products. read more...