The Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission held their final public hearing this past Wednesday evening, and once again heard the public's many objections to the proposed plans. No matter, they've already decided what their recommendations will be. Rather than using this golden opportunity to produce a comprehensive road map to our city's future, a road map that addresses all the necessary reforms needed throughout our complex transportation system, they've decided to do the least amount of planning possible to obtain the $354 million offered by the Federal DOT. A competent job, and nothing more.
But why now? What about all the previous years where the city failed to qualify for federal transportation grants due to a chronic inability to meet the standards of the Federal Clean Air Act? We've heard no heartfelt mea culpas regarding these lost dollars, and in aggregate, the amount lost is in the tens of billions.
This week alone, we received MTA reports that informed us that budget overruns for implementing the thousand-camera surveillance system will drive the cost to $450 million, and that the drastically reduced-in-scope downtown transportation hub's price is now approaching $900 million. That's 1.35 billion dollars for business as usual—suddenly, the $354 million doesn't seem like such a big deal.
It's not—it's just a foot in the door, and once again, our public officials are not quite being completely honest with us—these plans weren't designed to benefit all the citizens of the city and the region, but were designed mainly at the behest of the Partnership for New York City, based in downtown Manhattan, chiefly to benefit the multi-national businesses of which that entity is comprised.
Now I've got nothing against helping these businesses; they do, after all, help us all pay our bills, and their continued well-being is in all our best interests. But as long as these transportation issues are on the table, we should demand of our government a more comprehensive transportation plan that accomplishes all of the following:
• Increases service, with reductions in crowding and travel times on public transportation
• Changes the culture of the MTA to put riders first
• Reduces vehicular traffic and particulate pollution in all 5 boroughs and the entire downstate region—that New York City has the highest asthma rate in the United States is shameful, and must be aggressively addressed
• Increases enforcement of all existing traffic laws
• Produces both local and national campaigns to increase driver responsibility
• Dedicates funding (a lockbox) for mass transit
• Expands access to public transportation for those city neighborhoods not served
• Provides incentives to promote the use of alternate transportation, from hybrid vehicles to bicycles
A plan that shoots for these goals is a winner, and would improve the economy and quality of life for all New Yorkers. It could happen, but only if we demand it.