In a city where congestion pricing would not fly, now we just have congestion. In a city where much of the population relies on subways, buses and commuter trains, we decide to jack up prices on subways, buses and commuter trains.
The mayor, who is proud of his MetroCard, also seems bent on making New York look like Beijing. He has been peddling bicycle lanes to a city, most of whose population hasn’t been on a two-wheeler since Schwinn ruled the roost. (I had a banana seat!). Honestly, outside of the weekenders, and fast food delivery people, do you know anyone who rides a bike?
There was a deal to put tolls on East River Bridges, and it lasted about 10 minutes, until someone realized that there was no deal to put tolls on East River Bridges. The Legislature finally decided the MTA bailout will come from more taxes, or surcharges, or some such euphemism. What a brilliant idea it is to raise taxes during a recession. And, just how will more taxes deter people from driving?
What happened in Albany doesn’t really change things much, because the MTA is a mess, and needs somehow to develop a long-term capitol plan. And, next year it’ll be back looking for another fare hike.
The city’s current infrastructure was built on the logic that the car would always reign supreme. Robert Moses believed that when he built the Triborough Bridge. When the bridge linking Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx opened in 1936, congestion multiplied. As Robert Caro so brilliantly documented in “The Power Broker,” Moses had an answer – build a new bridge.
So, construction began on the Bronx-Whitestone. There were demands for a mass transit link on the crossing. But, Moses would not hear of it. When it opened it 1939, the Whitestone was quickly jammed, along with the other bridges it was supposed to relieve of traffic.
If you build it, they will come. But, Moses had no idea that they would keep coming and coming and coming.
We have not learned either. You add a lane to an expressway, soon you have four clogged lanes instead of three. HOV lanes have not truly succeeded. Other cities are actually charging for “express lanes,” but the jury is still out.
So what’s the answer? More mass transit, but we don’t have a revenue source. And, it seems impossible to deter people from driving. So why not try to deter people from buying gas-guzzlers? Or, even better, encourage Americans to buy fuel-efficient cars, with tax breaks, etc.
Now that the President has apparently fired the CEO of GM, it seems the taxpayers are in charge.
So if Obama misses my column this week, you might want to send him your suggestions, since it’s your tax dollars at work.
America is not even close to giving up its love affair with the automobile. And as long as Detroit keeps cranking out big cars, they’ll be traffic headaches on the Triborough (RFK, I know) and the Whitestone.
As GM goes, so goes the nation. Of course, GM is not going very well.