Mayor Bill de Blasio emerged with his own plan to fight NYC traffic congestion this week. It includes more enforcement, changes to signal timing and bans on deliveries during peak hours in key spots like midtown Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn.
There’s nothing wrong with de Blasio’s proposals, but without more expansive thinking and, yes, changes to tolling and fees, they’ll barely make a dent in the congestion crisis. Quite simply, you can’t fully fight congestion without the carrots and the sticks of a congestion-pricing plan. Any attempt to do so won’t accomplish the crucial goals: reducing the number of cars in Manhattan’s central business district, adding to MTA coffers, and changing driver behavior in significant ways to improve our environment and quality of life.
That’s why a comprehensive congestion plan would have to include adding tolls to the now-free East River bridges, lowering tolls on other crossings, charging drivers entering the central business district and creating a pricing structure that charges more for peak-hour driving.
De Blasio claims congestion pricing hits low-income, outer-borough drivers hardest. But there’s evidence to the contrary. The Community Service Society, led by David Jones, a de Blasio appointee to the MTA, found only 4 percent of working outer-borough residents commute to Manhattan by car, while more than half use mass transit. So, any pricing plan that puts money into the subways would help the very residents de Blasio claims to worry about.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is still months from unveiling his own plan. Too late, he offered city officials a seat on his Fix NYC panel. A de Blasio spokesman called the task force a “charade,” saying, “We have more important things to do . . . ”
Actually, there are few things more important than solving the city’s enormous transportation woes. We can’t rely on tiny fixes, and we won’t move anywhere with roadblocks between Albany and City Hall. Cuomo needs a thought-out and comprehensive plan, and de Blasio has to be willing to think bigger. Only then might traffic ease.