Cities

WTF?

They’re submerging subway cars to make artificial reefs?! Nobody tells me anything.

Machiavelli meets the Big Apple

Ten reasons NYC’s congestion pricing plan went belly up

Photo: Tom Twigg Albany strikes again: congestion pricing -- the smartest urban-transportation idea since the subway -- has been buried by the professional morticians of the New York State legislature, led by Chief Ghoul Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. As previously reported, the pricing plan, proposed a year ago by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and subsequently improved by a 17-member state-mandated commission, would have charged an $8 entry fee on cars driven into Manhattan's central business district (CBD) during 6 a.m. - 6 p.m. on weekdays. Benefits included an annual $500 million revenue stream for mass transit (sufficient to bond at least $5 billion in capital improvements), a solid if unspectacular drop in traffic gridlock and pollution, and, perhaps most significantly, a first step toward knocking the automobile off its privileged perch atop the New York street pyramid. Not to mention establishing the principle that safeguarding "the commons" -- our air, water and public space -- requires that we exact from ourselves a commensurate price for uses that damage or deplete it. Congestion pricing was backed by an unusually broad coalition of labor, business, enviros (the full spectrum from EJ to Big Green) and civic associations. Yet neither this broad-spectrum support nor the plan's extraordinary vetting over the past 12 months deterred legislators from both parties from citing "unanswered questions" and assailing bogus inequities. Calling today "a sad day for New Yorkers and New York City" and noting federal support for congestion pricing, Mayor Bloomberg blasted the legislature, stating that, "Even Washington, which most Americans agree is completely dysfunctional, is more willing to try new approaches to longstanding problems than our elected officials in the State Assembly." With so much going for it, what killed the plan? There will be time later for sober postmortems, but for now, here's my shoot-from-the-hip Top 10 list of what felled congestion pricing in NYC:

New York City’s congestion pricing plan …

… is dead.

Manhattan congestion-pricing plan kicks the bucket

Hopes had run high that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ambitious congestion-pricing plan for the Big Apple would move forward, but the measure has died a quiet death. Democratic members of the State Assembly, determining that the measure was overwhelmingly opposed, neglected to even bring it to the Assembly floor, instead shooting it down with a secret vote. The now-dead plan would have charged drivers $8 to enter midtown Manhattan during peak hours. Supporters called it an effective way to address congestion and pollution, while opponents called it elitist and unfair to lower-income commuters.

‘State Farm can get you back behind the wheel’

Witness the humiliation as this distinguished professional is forced to … my God, I can barely say it … ride a bike to work. Do something, State Farm! Anything! "You know that place where you’re swapping four wheels for two? Oh, man, I’m there." Says Streetsblog: "Yeah, I know that place. It’s called a city." UPDATE: State Farm has pulled the ad.

The sweet smell of victory

Seattle gets five more blocks of bike lanes

In this post, I talked about Seattle's efforts to improve bicycle safety. I mentioned that the busiest part of a key road was not striped, thanks to pressure from a local real estate baron who didn't want business disrupted. This created a dangerous gauntlet to run as bikers left the bike lane to start their long, hard slog uphill. I'm happy to report that the city has since reconsidered, and it has made a world of difference for safety. Which gives me the opportunity to tell the story of how I got hit by a car.

Building green, one city at a time

Eager municipalities hopping on board

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s officially the Year of Green Building. And while some areas have had eco-standards in place for a while now (helloooooo, D.C.!), the fevah is spreading in cities across the U.S. Take a gander at a few places considering formal green-building guidelines this spring: In a move described as a “watershed time, a wonderful thing,” Chula Vista, Calif. voted yesterday to approve mandatory green-building standards for homes and businesses. San Diego and Los Angeles are working on standards as well. Annapolis passed a green-building law in March with various higgledy-piggledy guidelines about square feet — …

California’s ‘hydrogen highway’ runs into roadblocks

Despite California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s executive order four years ago that “hundreds of hydrogen fueling stations” be built in the state, nary a station has been built under the program. Depending on whom you ask, the blame for the sputtering “hydrogen highway” lies with: energy companies and utilities, for not stepping forward to take state matching money to build stations; automakers, for not making enough hydrogen fuel cell cars; Democratic lawmakers, for mandating that the hydrogen be produced in a way that reduces greenhouse gases overall; Schwarzenegger, for under-researching and over-promising; and plain old complex bureaucracy. Mary Nichols, chair of …

The forgotten solution

Transit investment should and will be a part of the peak oil solution

Joseph Romm has made a number of very good points in his new Salon piece (and accompanying Gristmill post) on the problem of peak oil. He is, in my view, quite correct that oil prices will continue to increase based on supply and demand fundamentals. He is right that alternative oil source development would be a monumental mistake, and that biofuels are unlikely to be much help either. And I’d like to strongly associate myself with his statement that a solution to the climate problem is also a solution to the peak oil problem. But I strongly disagree with him …

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