Monday, February 18, 2008

Transportation Committee Chairman wants guarantees

Yesterday's Daily News featured an op-ed piece from John C. Liu, City Council Member and head of the Transportation Committee. Mr. Liu rightly suggests that the revenues generated by congestion pricing be dedicated to funding improvements to mass transit, and that those funds be protected from raids by present and future legislators; the "lockbox" concept.

He further requests that these funds be additive: "Second, the money must be additive in terms of overall transportation funding, not an excuse for future governors, mayors and legislators to cut MTA funding by an amount equal to congestion pricing proceeds.” and goes on to suggest that the City Council, along with the State Legislature, create a list of transit improvements towards which spending will be directed.

I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Liu's proposals, but ask that he, and his fellow City Council Members re-examine the "workable framework" provided by the Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission, and see if they cannot recommend further improvements to the plan—specifically, I'd like to alleviate the disproportionate impact upon city residents, and add more disincentives to those non-residents who regularly drive in—see my report, speech and letter to the commission on Traffic and Transit in New York City, posted on January 5th.

Higher congestion fees for out-of-city residents and discounts for city residents would help, and would encourage those city residents who currently register their cars out of state (perhaps as many as 1 in 4 outer-borough residents) to register their vehicles correctly.

I'd also ask that the funding be directed only to New York City Transit capital improvements, and not to the MTA. In addition, I would suggest that the council form a citizens oversight committee, to review and make changes to proposed spending by New York City Transit—NYCT has a history of spending far too much too obtain too little, and correcting this, too, should be part of congestion pricing. (See my posts "A culture of waste and inefficiency", from February 6th, and "Concrete flooring for the subways", from February 1st for some examples of NYCT waste.)

Finally, I stress once more that increased traffic enforcement, and a portion of the revenues generated thereby, is an essential element not only of any congestion-pricing initiative, but is necessary to ensure a civil society, and ask that the City Council incorporate this into their final recommendations to the State Assembly.