Letter of the Week: Congestion Pricing Diplomacy

bronx_asthma.jpgThe Bloomberg Administration is aiming to push its PlaNYC congestion pricing proposal through this session of the state legislature. That means the entire debate will take place within the next 36 days or so.

One thing that you can do as an individual citizens to support the Mayor's plan is to write a letter to your local elected officials, particularly your state assembly member and senator. If you're not sure who represents you, NYPIRG's web site can show you.

Here is a nice example of a letter written by Charles Komanoff of the Carbon Tax Center to Bronx Borough president Adolfo Carrión, who presides over a constituency with one of the highest rates of childhood asthma in the entire world. If you write your own letter feel free to upload it to the comment section. Maybe someone else can use your work. 

Dear President Carrión,

I'm writing regarding Mayor Bloomberg's proposed congestion fee for vehicle trips into the Manhattan Central Business District.

I first want to say that I've followed your career avidly since you entered the New York City Council in January, 1998. You and I had an in-depth discussion of the City's responsibility to act against motorist endangerment of bicycle-riders in May 2000, and your assertive questioning of City officials was a bright spot in the Council's May 22, 2000 hearing on bicyclist fatalities. Along with many of my colleagues at the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, of which I'm a founding trustee, and at Transportation Alternatives, which I served as president from 1986 to 1992, I've felt that your character, education and experience give you unique potential to lead and unite New Yorkers, particularly on issues of transportation, quality of life and the uses of city streets.

For all these reasons, I was surprised and dismayed to read press accounts suggesting that you may be positioning yourself to oppose the mayor's congestion pricing plan.

As a student and practitioner of urban planning, you know better than I that our City's chronic traffic congestion -- which poisons New Yorkers' lungs, consigns us to physical inactivity and all too often kills us straight-out by running us over, and which steals precious time from working people, delivery vehicles and mass transit users - won't be reversed until we put a price on street space and charge a price for congestion.

The mayor's plan may not be perfect, and he certainly isn't the perfect messenger, but it's a giant step in a positive direction and it deserves our support.

Streetsblog.org quotes you as saying about the plan, "I wonder if it is another hidden tax on working people. I worry about people who need to use their cars to get to work."

Yet as you know from the 2000 Census, 60% of Bronx households (and 68% of Bronx households that rent, and are therefore less affluent on average) don't even own a car. And even among Bronx car-owners, very few drive into the CBD on a regular basis. Moreover, revenues from the congestion toll will help improve mass transit, which is the primary mode used by working people.

President Carrión, the mayor's plan deserves your backing. I urge you to reconsider your stance and find a way to join, and lead, the tide of health advocates, children's advocates and transportation advocates who support it.

Thank you and best wishes,

Charles Komanoff