After the defeat of congestion pricing, many in the transportation advocacy community are facing two questions. Why did New York fail to pass congestion pricing? What can advocates do now? Two TSTC board members recently sought to answer those questions.
Writing in Gristmill, environmental economist Charles Komanoff gives his answers to the question of why congestion pricing didn’t make it through the state legislature. His top ten list of reasons includes individuals (such as pricing foe Assm. Richard Brodsky and his “stream of counterfactual arguments”), freak events (like the Spitzer scandal and Manhattan crane collapse), and messaging mishaps (such as an initial focus on improved traffic in the central business district even though many neighborhoods outside of Manhattan would have seen major traffic relief under the plan). Ultimately, he points to the inherent difficulty of disrupting the status quo (especially on the first try), even when the status quo is underfunded and under-maintained transit, choking traffic, and unhealthy air.
Straphangers Campaign staff attorney Gene Russianoff, in yesterday’s New York Times, lists some initiatives requiring city and state action that advocates can push for now. First and foremost he points to the yawning gap in the MTA’s 2008-2013 capital program, which is now at least $13.5 billion. Gov. Paterson yesterday announced the creation of a panel to study this very issue. Russianoff calls on the state to authorize bus lane enforcement cameras and a residential parking permit program in NYC, and asks the city to encourage parking turnover through higher meter prices and continue to crack down on fake parking placards.
Taken one by one, these ideas may seem incremental. But, as congestion pricing would have, each of these actions tackles the overriding goals of creating a more robust and convenient transit system, reducing traffic congestion, and improving air quality. As so many have said over the past few days, the challenges facing New York have not changed. Neither have the goals of the advocacy community.