Home Congestion Fee New York giveth away and Chicago taketh

New York giveth away and Chicago taketh

by Benjamin Kabak

Lucky Chicago. They aren’t afraid of change and progress, and now the Windy City is getting what should be ours if it hadn’t been for Sheldon Silver and his crony of cowardly representatives.

When New York decided not to adopt congestion pricing, the City forfeited around $354 million that would have gone toward anti-congestion measures as part of the new National Strategy to Reduce Congestion. Since our wonderful leaders don’t seem too concerned with reducing congestion, the feds instead decided to dole out $153 million to Chicago. That city will implement a bus rapid transit system with dedicated lanes and ramped-up enforcement as well as variable-rate parking meters.

Los Angeles — the king of congestion — will receive over $200 million that will go toward implementing a tolling system designed to encourage car-pooling and other high-occupancy vehicle commuting. I prefer Chicago’s plan, but the one in Los Angeles is not without merit.

Catrin Einhorn of The Times has the story:

In Chicago, officials said Tuesday that they planned to use $153 million for projects like creating the first 10 miles of lanes dedicated to faster buses that make fewer stops and set off sensors that lengthen green traffic lights and shorten red ones. To discourage driving downtown, meters and parking lots there would charge more during peak traffic times.

In Los Angeles, which would receive $213 million, officials said high-occupancy vehicle lanes would be converted to toll lanes. Cars with three or more people would be exempt from paying. The federal money would also finance bus service in the new toll lanes.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, through a spokesman, applauded the efforts of both cities.

“While it’s sad that Washington, which most Americans agree is completely dysfunctional, is more willing to try new approaches to long-standing problems than Albany is,” Mr. Bloomberg’s press secretary, Stu Loeser, said, “we’re glad other places aren’t as allergic to innovation.”

Mayor Bloomberg is clearly still smarting from the defeat of his groundbreaking (in the U.S., at least) congestion pricing plan. He’s not the only one. “We’re disappointed that New York didn’t get it,” Tyler D. Duvall, acting under secretary for policy for the Department of Transportation, said to The Times, “but we’re extremely happy to have the opportunity to work with L.A. and Chicago.”

For New York, the blow stings a bit. Chicago, in particular, is adopting measures that New York really needs and should have. At a time when many are noting that our own BRT system may be delayed a few years, Chicago’s gain is New York’s loss.

We could have had BRT money; we could have had funds for traffic reduction programs and public transit expansion. Instead, we have risk-averse politicians who wouldn’t even put the plan up for a floor vote, and we get to sit back at Chicago enjoys the money that could have been ours. That’s some example to set as a global city in 2008.

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The Secret Conductor April 30, 2008 - 7:49 am

“While it’s sad that Washington, which most Americans agree is completely dysfunctional, is more willing to try new approaches to long-standing problems than Albany is,” Mr. Bloomberg’s press secretary, Stu Loeser, said, “we’re glad other places aren’t as allergic to innovation.”

I wish I was more up to date on just why the project failed (other than Mr. Silver who seems to have just a little bit too much power). As many people said that this wold effect the poor and the working class, I am still trying to figure out just how many poor and working class people drive to lower and midtown Manhattan 5 days a week.

I want to know where they park, how they afford the gas, the car insurance, and a few other tidbits just to have the necessary car driving privileges to get to work.

I think congestion pricing actually effected people WITH money and that was the problem.

Now we have to do everything without the 300+ million. Yes, we will still HAVE to do the same things that were proposed, its just going to be pushed back about a decade. We are going to get our BRT and about 1/4 to 1/3 of the 2nd ave subway, train and bus service increases, and maybe the LIRR to grand central… at a cost: 3.00 MTA fares, 3-6 dollar a hour parking meters, bigger traffic tickets, buses with cameras taking shots of people parked in bus areas, higher tolls on bridges, high gas tax, higher city tax… we will pay for this, make no mistake.

And wasn’t the whole price congestion thing an experiment in the first place? They were acting like we were gonna make it permanent. If it didn’t work the poof BE GONE!

Seems like something else is at work here.

Kid Twist April 30, 2008 - 9:58 am

Chicago gets cash for BRT. So we could have also gotten money without shutting down the city. Seems like putting all our eggs into the congestion pricing basket wasn’t all that wise.

Julia April 30, 2008 - 10:36 am

I didn’t see this before posting my comment, but I completely agree.

While most of the blame has to rest with Speaker Silver, Mayor Bloomberg deserves a share, too. It was just not smart to insist that we needed a big, new, Bloomberg-branded idea, rather than focusing on incremental improvements that don’t require Albany approval. Now we have to make those improvements anyway; we just have to use our own money.

Benjamin Kabak April 30, 2008 - 11:13 am

This is a pretty valid point. I think Bloomberg does bear the some of the blame for his plan’s failure. If we could have captured federal funds by breaking up the plan — including the BRT aspects — into smaller projects, he should have seen to that.

But at the same time, why couldn’t the feds have given us money for BRT independent of congestion pricing? They didn’t need to take it all away if DOT had been vocal about a commitment to BRT plans.

The Secret Conductor April 30, 2008 - 8:46 pm

Well maybe that is somewhat true… but how would the BRT work in the heart of the city without the traffic being lessened?

I’ll admit I didn’t think that maybe if he broke it up into part that it would have been excepted better.

Nevertheless, I am still amazed as to how the plan was NOT excepted. would the government except the plan without the congestion pricing?

Well, it would seem one way or another we will still get it, just without the instant money and we will get it at a higher cost to implement.

Julia April 30, 2008 - 10:32 am

Aw. Have fun with our money, Chicago. (The CTA probably needs it more than we do, anyway.)

Reading about their plan, though, I can’t help wondering why our application had to be so dependent on congestion pricing. Chicago’s proposal sounds a lot like the rest of NYC’s transit plan. Couldn’t we have built in some sort of contingency plan, so that we could have at least won a smaller grant to use for BRT and parking ourselves? (I guess it would have undercut the argument for congestion pricing. But look how well that worked out.)

todd April 30, 2008 - 10:45 am

Thanks again Mr. Silver!

The Boss April 30, 2008 - 1:32 pm

Yeah, thanks again Mr. Silver. On behalf of everyone in New York City that suffers from brathing problem (asthma to be exact) we’ll remember you at the balot box.


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