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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

In the "All Politics Is Local" Department...

New York Mayor Bloomberg's "congestion pricing" plan is DOA. Sheldon Silver and the Albany Democrats killed it. Praise Jeebus!

For those that don't know about this, Bloomberg had proposed that anyone driving on 60th Street and below in Manhattan pay an $8 fee. The idea behind this would be to alleviate congestion in that area and generate millions in revenue to invest in better public transportation. If this plan were put into action, New York City would be eligible for $354 million in federal funding, about $10 million of which would go towards funding the congestion pricing program itself, and the rest being allocated towards improving infrastructure and public transportation options. This money would be most welcome, since, like most major American cities in the Age of Bush, NYC is perpetually low on cash.

All sounds great, right? One thing I do like about Bloomberg is his commitment to the environment, and I certainly agree that improving infrastructure and public transportation would be a good start.

But read the fine print. The congestion pricing option was only one of many that could have been considered.

New York City applied to be part of the United States Department of Transportation's Urban Partnership Program, which would allocate money to cities that were willing to fight urban traffic congestion through tolling programs, express bus services or bus rapid transit, telecommuting, or technologies designed for the purpose.
Why the focus on congestion pricing, then? I have long felt that telecommuting (which is what I do) is a far, far better option for companies to pursue. It's a win-win in so many respects: cheaper for the company, which has much less overhead to maintain; cheaper for the employee, who saves thousands in commuting costs; and so much better for the environment! Why couldn't tax breaks, or other incentives, be given to companies who allow a certain percentage of their employees to telecommute?

Well, because it's much better for the lowly bridge-and-tunnel folks to be brutally penalized for deigning to enter the Land of The Super-Wealthy, apparently.

Actually, I don't know the answer to this question: all I know is, in my opinion, it is a simply horrible idea to charge people so much money to come to work. Some are already paying a ridiculous amount, and with the price of gas going up? Oy!

For example, my hairdresser, who commutes from the Poconos, tells me she is already paying about $50/day to come to work. She has to drive AND take the bus in order to coordinate with her husband's work schedule. Yes, she works below 60th Street. Yes, she would now be paying almost $60/day. Why? What benefit would it be to her?

And there's the rub. A lot of people who don't live in New York would be paying a lot of money to (possibly) improve the lives of New Yorkers. It just doesn't make sense, and the Democrats in the State Assembly knew it. In fact, New Jersey Governor John Corzine hated the idea so much that he was willing to sue the city to stop the plan from taking place.

But that telecommuting option...

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