Monday, March 31, 2008

Cross Bridge, Pay Troll

Congestion Pricing
Could Work, But
Who Trusts MTA
To Control Costs?

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me for 56 years, oy vey.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and its predecessor agencies have been deceiving New Yorkers for at least 60 years.

They may have been doing it longer, but I was too young to know about it.

It began in civics class in Junior High School 52 in Upper Manhattan. We were assigned by Mr. Reisman to write essays on the issue of the day, whether the subway fare should be increased from five to ten cents. We could choose which side we would take.

The Board of Transportation, long since abolished, operated the three subway systems, IRT, BMT and IND, and some trolley and bus lines. They said that a ten-cent fare would cover their deficit and provide better transportation for the public. The kids who were against the increase said that if the fare went to ten cents, some day it would go to fifteen. They were right on that one. On the other hand, the fare had been five cents for generations, and the private subway companies which built the IRT and BMT lines had been driven into bankruptcy. The city built the IND lines in the 1930's. They looked very nice when they were new. So the ten cent fare was reasonable, even if the riders did not get all they were promised.
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11 comments:

  1. Anonymous4:37 PM

    Legitimate concerns, certainly. But as a regular visitor to London, I've had a chance to observe the effects of congestion pricing there, and they've been wonderful. There is less traffic, of course, and the air is noticeably cleaner. (I used to have to wind through back streets because High St. Kensington gave me asthma attacks; some of that improvement may be due to better gasoline.) Best of all, the price of transit is plummeting and the service is improving.

    So do it carefully, NYC, but do it.

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  2. "skillful advertising creates a climate in which the normally unpalatable (or palatable, but suppressed) may be sufficiently garnished as to become desirable." right you are, and that's why I keep yelling in capital letters for bloomy to devote his post mayoralty to spending what it takes to get us state term limits; popular initiatives; proportional representation; and unicameral legis.

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  3. "New York City already pays a much higher percentage of the cost of an MTA ride than passengers on Metro-North or the Long Island Rail Road." Yes, but the total cost of a NYC ride is a pittance compared to what LIers pay. Based on LIRR fares, a trip from Pelham Bay, Bx. to Stillwell, Coney Island should cost $17.00, not a $1.67. That moral equivalence argument is baloney. Pay by the distance what I pay, and I'll vote for you to have my same proportion subsidized. We wouldn't need more tolls if NYCers paid the real fare.

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  4. "Just where on the Lexington Avenue subway will they fit?" They won't; they'll fit on the Lex Ave express bus; a hydrogen-electric bus; a no- hydrocarbon-emissions bus; speeding through dedicated bus lanes. Or perhaps the trains will running more often and closer with signal and safety improvements.
    It's inevitable in our current system; the pols have to get their skim; but, see my remarks above, there is hope. Ah well, have to leave for work now; gotta fight the traffic.

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  5. You raise many of the points about this plan and the effort to push it through which have made me suspicious.
    Here's another: look at who introduced it -- Mike Bloomberg and Dan Doctoroff, the pair who brought us the massive rezoning of the far west side. Where now we may see 50 and 60 story buildings replace 2 and 3 story buildings. Won't that mean many more people and many more autos? And few of those people will let a little matter of $8.00 get between them and their limos.
    So are these the people who really seem serious about getting cars out of Manhattan?

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  6. David Zelman9:43 AM

    I thought this was excellent. But I don't agree with your conclusion.

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  7. Seymour Gartenberg9:45 AM

    You must be kidding- the best argument for congestion pricing is that Mayor Bloomberg is for it--the
    architect of the West Side stadium and the Madison Square Garden
    nonsense which went down the tubes-thank God! For those unfortunates like me who do not live in Manhattan, this proposal is nonsense--although I do pay for the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel every time I go in and out of Manhattan which is about 3/4 times weekly. If this congestion pricing proposal goes into effect Phyllis and I do not have to buy on Fifth Ave. and Madison Ave. nor eat in Manhattan restaurants(I haven't figured out how I'm going to avoid the opera, the Broadway theater and the museums.) We can switch a lot of spending to Nassau and do significant damage to New York merchants. Get with it Henry! At one point you said Spitzer could do no wrong-what makes you think Bloomberg is perfect.
    Seymour Gartenberg

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  8. Rey Olsen9:46 AM

    What you left out was when New York City was cobbled out of 5 counties a little more than a century ago, residents of the outer boroughs were promised that their children would have free access to the treasures of Manhattan. As there was limited public transport at the time, they reasonably inferred the reference was to private wheeled vehicles.

    An examination of the skyline of each Borough reveals that the outers were zoned out of the construction of tall buildings. This concentration of high FAR rights made Manhattan real estate much more valuable.

    Now some of us who live in Manhattan (I disclose that I do) want to keep the outers out of our way when we use or hire a private vehicle to visit our tall buildings. (Without the tall buildings and their high occupancy, there would be no congestion.)

    Money from congestion pricing will not incrementally increase spending on public transport. It will simply replace other revenue sources which will be diverted elsewhere--as you correctly demonstrated is prone to occur.

    To favor congestion pricing you either have to be a fool or a resident of the Upper East Side wishing to turn the area into Monaco--which has about the same population.

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  9. You are correct Henry. Deception is the key. Can we trust the MTA? Certainly not! It is a same though that our city had a chance and perhaps never again to have built the second phase of the subway systen in the late 1920's. A second system would have helped the city unfortunately the Great Depression and Robert Moses destroyed those dreams. After Bloomberg can the public rely on honesty and integrity on our elected officials to keep the promise of monies going to mass transit instead of balancing a depleted city budget in uncertain financial times? You make the call.

    From,

    Busy Beaver

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  10. Georgia Allen9:47 AM

    RIGHT ON -- MR. STERN -

    I can't imagine any more people on my train, the L which is one of the main lines between Brooklyn and Manhattan. Most of us change at 14th street, Union Square, to proceed to our jobs uptown or downtown and that station is already a danger because of the mobs of people at rush hour.

    It's like a third world country -- the bodies moving in mass (very slowly) to get up stairs to change trains.

    HORRORS -- CONGESTION PRICING CAN ONLY REEK HAVOC ON THE SUBWAYS. ALSO -- WHAT ARE THE COSTS OF INSTITUTING THE TOLLS AND THE COSTS OF TIME IN COLLECTING, ETC.

    AND COMPLETELY UNJUST TO PEOPLE WHO MUST DRIVE IN TO THE CITY TO DO THEIR BUSINESS.

    THEY ALREADY PENALIZE PEOPLE TRYING TO DELIVER AND PICK UP THINGS IN THIS CITY.

    HAVE YOU SEEN THE TICKETS BEING GIVEN OUT TO FEDEX AND UPS TRUCKS? SUPPOSED TO DO THEIR BUSINESS WITHIN 45 MINUTES? NOW YOU TELL ME HOW A UPS/FEDEX DRIVER IS SUPPOSED TO DELIVER 20 SOMETHING FLOORS AND MAKE PICK UPS AND FILL HIS TRUCK IN 45 MINUTES. IT'S A JOKE!

    THANKS FOR LISTENING. SORRY TO GET ON MY SOAPBOX!

    All the best, Georgia Allen

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  11. Richard Hayman1:23 PM

    Dear Editors:

    NYC needs more car congestion, not less!

    Jam them up and they will walk!
    Only by making NYC car traffic more jammed will the City thrive.

    The congestion pricing plan will only keep away the poorer drivers, not the SUVs.

    Anyone with any business or errand of value will fork over the mere $8 to get into the city center.

    The MTA and the legion of IT toll consultants will feather their nests with congestion pricing income, to no relief on the streets.

    NYC policy should be to restrict private cars to a few major avenues and leave the rest of the city streets to taxis, commercial deliveries and pedestrians. The jam of cars should be squeezed to the frustration of the drivers, who would park and walk - or take a subway or cab.

    NYC is far behind other cities of the world in pedestrian walkways.
    Look at Shanghai or Stockholm for the kind of design that attracts people to walk in urban areas.
    NYC is still a hazard to cross streets or bicycle without risking being run over.

    My visitors from afar often ask, "Why do you let these cars rule the streets?"

    No mere congestion pricing will relieve the City of the press of auto-mania.

    Restricting road use is the only solution.

    Richard Hayman

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