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New York Post

 

The Critics of Mayor's Toll Plan Get Silly

March 31, 2008

By Hope Cohen

THE City Council will vote as early as today on a version of Mayor Bloom berg’s congestion-pricing plan - which would charge cars $8 a day and trucks $21 to enter Manhattan south of 60th Street on weekdays. The plan also raises funds for the city’s transit infrastructure, helps cut air pollution and boosts the local economy - so you’d think it’d be an easy sell.

Not so, said several witnesses at a day-long council hearing last Monday. Most of their objections weren’t new - but hearing them in swift succession highlighted their arguments’ absurdity.

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky’s objection: “Pricing mechanisms - and this one in particular - are a way to rewrite the social contract.” Hmm: Brodsky didn’t mention anything about threats to the social contract from existing similar fees, such as bridge and tunnel tolls or subway fares, all of which have been raised without civic collapse.

Stranger still was Brodsky’s own proposal to cut Manhattan traffic: Have cops turn cars away at the border, based on license-plate number.

Weirdest of all was his claim that approving congestion pricing would somehow “gut” the state’s environmental-review law. In fact, this plan’s been through exhaustive reviews, with more ahead - they were a key basis on which a state commission that Brodsky served on gave the plan a thumbs-up.

This is, after all, a bill conceived to help the environment. More, the plan goes beyond state requirements in continuing traffic and air-quality monitoring even after the tolls kick in. Where’s the “gutting”?

Sillier still was a claim by Corey Bearak of Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free: Since asthma rates in Midtown are lower than they are elsewhere, he said, the plan can’t really be about improving air quality and health. As if air doesn’t cross borough lines. Of course, clearing Times Square air helps South Bronx breathers, too.

Several council members suggested that because the plan would credit drivers for tolls paid, it would encourage them to keep driving. Huh? No one is going to pay less than now, and many would pay more if they continue to drive in.

Leave private drivers alone, said both Brodsky and Bearak; instead, we should impose high surcharges on cab rides into and out of the zone - as if taxis are the root of the problem. In fact, cabs are a key reason behind Manhattan’s very low rate of private-car ownership. And charging them to cross the line would just leave more of them cruising empty for fares inside the zone.

Then there was Rep. Anthony Weiner - warning that, if New York wins a $354 million federal grant for one part of the plan (to fund bus and ferry service to and from neighborhoods now sending the greatest number of drivers to Manhattan), the city will lose other federal transportation funding. In fact, the grant would come from a fund dedicated to such programs.

The proposal on the table isn’t perfect. But, as Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer testified, we’re not being given a choice “between this plan and some hypothetically perfect plan yet to be unveiled.” New Yorkers want to reduce traffic congestion and invest in their transportation network. And they want to qualify for federal funding for up-front transit upgrades to entice drivers out of their cars. Council members: It’s time to get started.

Original Source: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/the_critics_of_mayor_toll_plan_get_uqXJRFhZLQeRJ24iw4mZEN

 

 
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