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Posts from the "Kathryn Wylde" Category

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Infrastructure Bigs: To Compete, NYC Needs Congestion Pricing, Tolls

Holland_Tunnel_tolls.jpgTolls at the Holland Tunnel. Now the Port Authority is looking for the next financing model. Image: Library of Congress.

At a panel put on by the New School last week, some of New York's biggest players in transportation and planning came together to discuss the future of the city's infrastructure. They all seemed to agree: The city can't keep up with its global competitors without new sources of revenue.

Christopher Ward, the executive director of the Port Authority, framed the stakes: "We have to ask, what builds wealth?" The other panelists concurred: New York's health and economic dominance won't continue without consistent investment in its infrastructure, particularly its transportation network.

Seth Pinsky, the president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, put it more directly. "We have spent the last 20 years trying to get our infrastructure back to pre-1970 levels," he said. Without moving further, "We will not be able to compete with other world cities."

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We Win!!!… a Trip to Albany?

This morning's Crain's Insider names Streetsblog one of the winners of Monday's congestion pricing vote in City Council. While we're honored, no one around here is spiking the ball or dancing in the end zone until New York's famously dysfunctional state legislature is done doing whatever it is they're going to do to the plan. Richard Brodksy is, for now, a loser who "overplayed his hand."

Crain's also names Staten Island Councilman Mike McMahon one of the losers. They suggest that his support of congestion pricing has ruined any chance he has to win the Borough presidency. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Crain's is wrong about that.

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NY1 Poll: How do You Want Your Legislator to Vote?

Beneath an ad banner hawking the BMW X5 sports ute ("with an optional third row seat!"), the NY1 web site is running a congestion pricing Snap Poll that asks, "How would like your state lawmakers to vote on congestion pricing?" Vote right here.

Also Partnership for New York president Kathy Wylde is on NY1 tonight with Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky. It should be a good show.

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Has Richard Brodsky Ever Paid a Subway Fare?

brodsky.jpgTelevision news legend Gabe Pressman hosted a debate on congestion pricing between Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky and Partnership for New York City President Kathy Wylde on Friday. The transcript is online at WNBC and it's worth a read if you want to see Wylde catch Brodsky in a couple of small but significant mistruths and get a sense of the arguments that free motoring advocates are using to try to kill the Traffic Commission's anti-gridlock plan.

The first such argument is a condensed version of the dramatic, impassioned plea-to-justice that Brodsky delivered at the final Congestion Mitigation Hearing a couple of weeks ago:

"For the first time in American history, someone is seriously proposing to charge the public for access to a public space."

It makes one wonder: When was the last time Brodsky paid a subway fare, bridge toll or train ticket out of his own pocket? Could it be that his windshield perspective on the city is so deeply ingrained that he doesn't realize that of the hundreds of thousands of people walking around Manhattan's traffic-choked public spaces every day -- 85 percent of them -- paid for "access" via mass transit?

Wylde countered:

Well, I said I live in Brooklyn and I have a choice. I can drive my car into Manhattan to work, in which case I pay nothing, or I can take the express bus, in which case I pay $9.00 a day. So right now we don't have a fair system. The people who take the bus are paying more and stuck in traffic. The people who are taking the subways, we don't have the resources we need to improve conditions. This program will raise almost a billion dollars between the federal grant that is promised if we pass this by March 31st and half a--half a billion dollars a year in revenues to support the system.

Towards the end of the interview, Brodsky got caught telling two apparent lies. First he claimed that local environmental organizations are not in favor of congestion pricing. Yet, he can't name one. Then he said the Traffic Commission is calling for a repeal New York State's environmental review laws. Not true. Wylde was having none of it:
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Weiner and Wylde Square Off in Pricing Forum

Four veterans of the congestion pricing wars went toe-to-toe at the Museum of the City of New York Wednesday night -- the last showdown before the Congestion Mitigation Commission releases its draft proposals today.

Taking the stump for pricing were Kathryn Wylde of the Partnership for NYC and Michael O'Loughlin of the Campaign for New York's Future. Arguing against were Congressman Anthony Weiner of Queens and Walter McCaffrey of the Coalition to Keep NYC Congestion Tax Free. The standing-room-only crowd of more than 120 people -- most of whom came from the Upper East Side and East Harlem, judging by the post-debate Q & A -- appeared to favor Weiner and McCaffrey by a noticeable, though not overwhelming, margin. Wylde and O'Loughlin scored their share of applause, but Weiner was the only speaker to draw vocal cheers.

Claiming that "we are buying a pig in a poke," Weiner made several arguments familiar to Streetsblog readers, adding a few rhetorical flourishes worth noting. Among his main points:

  • The current plan is "not fair" because suburban drivers from LI and NJ won't pay any fee in addition to the existing tolls on the Hudson River crossings and the Queens-Midtown Tunnel.
  • Commercial truck traffic in Midtown is increasing faster than car traffic, so a priority should be placed on mitigating truck congestion.
  • The number of people who switch to mass transit because of congestion pricing will impose costs on the transit system that significantly outweigh the revenue pricing will generate.
  • Republicans support congestion pricing because it "bolsters the idea that municipalities should pay for their own transportation enhancements," as opposed to the idea that transit improvements should be paid for from a federal pot of gas tax revenue.

Weiner built up this last point quite dramatically, painting congestion pricing as a wedge issue that has played into the hands of "Texas conservatives" by dividing people who share a concern for the environment. "There's a reason that George Bush likes this plan," he said, insisting that "there are smarter and more progressive ways to do this."

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Highlights of Monday’s Traffic Commission Meeting

brodsky_holds_forth.jpg
Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky's claim that congestion pricing "smacks the middle class" was not challenged by reporters after Monday's meeting despite a recent IBO report that says otherwise. Brodsky said a carbon tax would be fairer and praised Mayor Bloomberg for suggesting it.

Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner Bruce Schaller has clearly been busy. At Monday's Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission meeting he presented more than a dozen separate congestion pricing scenarios. Having run each of them through NYMTC's state-of-the-art regional traffic model, Schaller delivered estimates for how each of the various pricing schemes would impact total vehicle miles traveled, costs and revenue.

Commission chairman Marc Shaw introduced the day's discussion by saying that "Everything's still on the table" while acknowledging that some of the scenarios Schaller was modeling were "obviously controversial." Shaw also went out of his way to express disappointment that the New York Times had chosen to editorialize against the idea of East River Bridge tolls "before we've even had a public discussion about it."

Schaller's Powerpoint presentation is available in its entirety below. There were a lot of numbers and transportation policy jargon but here are a few notable points:

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Congestion Panel Considers Shrinking Zone and Tolling Bridges

The Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission wants to reduce the size of the proposed congestion pricing zone, replace cameras with higher parking fees, and possibly toll the East River bridges, according to a (subscription only) story by Erik Engquist in Crain's New York Business today.

A few of the steps under consideration:

  • moving the northern boundary from 86th Street to 60th Street;
  • "drastically" reducing the number of cameras to cut administrative costs and "mollify civil libertarians";
  • retooling the toll offset proposed for New Jersey drivers;
  • tolling the East River bridges (over the objection of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz).

The Daily News says the panel is also thinking about eliminating the $4 fee for trips within the congestion zone, and creating additional, smaller zones in downtown and Midtown.

This sentence really jumped out of Engquist's article:

In place of cameras, much higher fees for on-street parking, and perhaps a new tax on garage parking, would be imposed to raise revenues and discourage driving in the central business district.

So, what does that mean? Is the Commission considering replacing congestion pricing (as defined by the federal government) in favor of more stringent and expensive parking policies? If so, will the feds still give New York City a $354.5 million grant for that?

For a refresher on the hows and whys of the original pricing proposal -- which addresses many, if not all, of the commission's concerns -- see Streetsblog's four-part interview series with PlaNYC architect Rohit Aggarwala.

In the meantime, here's the Crain's article in its entirety.

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Who is Richard Brodsky?

Schuerman_RichardBrodsky2V.jpgMatthew Schuerman offers up a brief but insightful profile of Westchester Assembly member Richard Brodsky in this week's Observer. Who is the man who holds the keys to the future of New York City transportation policy?

First of all, like many on the government payroll, he's got his own ideas about parking policy:

Already late for a meeting, he guided his deputy chief of staff, who was at the wheel, into a parking lot. "Just take the handicapped spot," he suggested, but she thought better of it and found a legitimate spot of her own.

Brodsky learned politics at the feet of Ed Muskie and Bella Abzug. He viscerally rejects the market-based, technology-driven environmental policy of congestion pricing. In his fight to maintain the free, unfettered motoring that his generation grew up with, he claims to be defending the interests of New York City's poor and working class. And though he talks, sounds and acts like the quintessential, baby-boomer, New York liberal politician, that's not how he defines himself:

A self-described progressive known for having a point of view on pretty much everything, he is also emerging as a key player in the battle over congestion pricing, Mayor Bloomberg's plan to charge $8 to drive in core Manhattan on weekdays. Mr. Brodsky does not like it.

Everyone Schuerman talks to -- even his opposition -- seems to like Brodsky and think he's a genuinely smart guy:

"Richard is an extremely intelligent guy who I believe could bring consensus to this issue if he really has an open mind," said Kathryn Wylde, the president and chief executive of the Partnership for New York City, and a member of the commission. "For him to become an advocate of congestion pricing is unlikely, but convincing him that the process of getting there is fair and the plan is comprehensive enough are going to be very important to making the commission work."

However, some suggest that Brodsky may be confused about what sort of transportation policy would actually benefit the vast majority of poor and middle class New Yorkers:

"A lot of it is lazy thinking-using the language of the middle class to put fear into a large segment of the population for the benefit of a small segment," said another commission member, Andrea Batista Schlesinger, executive director of the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy. "He confuses driving with a public good without recognizing that it is the streets that are the public good."

Photo: James Hamilton for the Observer

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“Not Getting Anywhere” at Bronx Pricing Forum


And we thought Bloomberg had a tough crowd...

Filed by Megan Chuchmach:

Parking at the Riverdale Temple in the Bronx was at a premium Thursday night, with cars lining Independence Avenue in front and packing the lot out back. Inside, the owners of those cars, for the most part, raised a stink about Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan.

"Something needs to be done about the traffic, but not the way it is in its current proposal," Riverdale resident Helen Morik said at the event, a pricing forum hosted by Bronx state Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz.

That was the common theme among residents of the 81st Assembly District, clearly mostly motorists, who came to listen to Kathryn Wylde speak for and Westchester Assembly member Richard Brodsky speak against Bloomberg's proposed plan to combat Manhattan traffic problems. Wylde and Brodsky are both members of the Congestion Mitigation Commission.

Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, argued that people who drive cars from the Bronx into Manhattan shouldn't be exempt from helping ease the plague of traffic congestion.

"We all need to share the burden," Wylde said. "The only solution is to figure out how to discourage people from driving into Manhattan." She said the city is laden with a $13 billion a year price tag for excessive congestion, which is exhausting the economy and costing jobs.

Brodsky, Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions, shot back that the pricing plan is "sticking it to the middle class and the poor." He said he is fighting the principle of charging taxpayers for access to public goods, not the $8 itself.

Dinowitz, a frank critic of the congestion pricing plan, argued that Bloomberg's proposal would make the Bronx a huge parking lot, forcing Bronxites to suffer extra traffic, extra parking and extra fees.

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Bronx Traffic Relief Forum Tonight, 7:30pm, Riverdale Temple

Dinosaur.jpgBronx Assembly member Jeffrey Dinowitz is hosting a forum tonight on Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan. Speaking in favor of congestion pricing will be Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of the Partnership for New York City. Speaking in opposition to congestion pricing will be Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions. Both are members of the 17-person Congestion Mitigation Commission.

The press release says that residents of the Riverdale, Kingsbridge, Van Cortlandt Village, Norwood, Woodlawn and Wakefield communities will be given an opportunity to ask questions and make statements on this important issue. Perhaps if you work, shop or travel through the Bronx on a regular basis, they'll also let you say a few words. You can find the details here.

It would be good for traffic relief advocates to show up. You can bet that opponents of congestion pricing will be out in force. Dinowitz has made clear that he himself is one of them. And Riverdale is identified in PlaNYC as one of 22 neighborhoods with a higher-than-average concentration of Manhattan-bound car commuters.

In recent writings, Dinowitz has been responsible for propagating many common misconceptions about Mayor Bloomberg's plan -- that efforts to reduce automobile dependence and traffic congestion are somehow "elitist in nature," that air quality benefits will magically stop at the 86th Street border, that mass transit won't improve under the Mayor's proposal, and that the federal grant deadline to fund congestion pricing was "a lie." So, all in all, it's great to see Dinowitz hosting a debate on the issue between two players who represent their sides well.

Watching the goings-on in Albany since summer I've increasingly gotten the sense that many New York State legislators must be profoundly cynical about the possibility that government can actually make New Yorkers lives better (apparently I'm not alone in that feeling).

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