Friday, May 25, 2012

Gridlock Sam's plan is not fair or equitable

I've got objections to "Gridlock Sam" Schwartz's plan to toll the East River Bridges and use some of the money to reduce tolls on the MTA bridges that don't go to Manhattan. I've talked about how Schwartz goes out of his way to provide "something for the drivers," but fails to give them what they really want: validation of the status that they sought by becoming drivers in the first place. I've talked about how this "something for the drivers" is not about compensating the current drivers, but sinking money into durable infrastructure for anyone who will drive in New York City in the next thirty to fifty years. This is not a vision of a sustainable future.

Now let's move on to the next big one: it's not fair. Schwartz actually calls his plan "the Fair Plan." This is reiterated by Charlie Komanoff and Brian Lehrer who call it "fair" and "equitable." The problem is that it's only fair if you take a very limited view of the system.


You've probably all heard the story about the two women who went to King Solomon, both claiming to be the mother of a single baby. Solomon, in his wisdom, offered to split the baby and give each woman half. One of the women, realizing that half a baby was worse than none, told Solomon to give the baby to the other woman. Solomon replied that she must be the real mother because she was willing to part with the baby rather than see it killed.

Schwartz and his friends spent time talking to people who had opposed the Mayor's congestion pricing plan and came up with something that at least some of them felt would be fair. To me it seems like a classic case of splitting the baby. It will not satisfy the drivers and will prevent transit from successfully expanding into the outer boroughs and suburbs. We have enough money to maintain one transportation system for the area, but we can't afford to properly maintain two - or at least, there are very few New Yorkers who want to pay high enough taxes, gas prices and transit fares to maintain both.

Worst of all, it's an example of a special crazy kind of "fairness" that completely ignores history. It was apparently football coach Barry Switzer who said, "Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple." That's the mindset of New York drivers, who benefit from the billions of dollars poured into the region's highway system over the past fifty years, and zoning codes that require every builder to supply parking, outside of Manhattan and Long Island City. They can't even wrap their minds around the idea that New Jersey drivers already pay tolls to enter Manhattan.

This kind of bizarro "fairness" that ignores history and splits babies is not too surprising coming from Shelly Silver and Peter Vallone, Jr. It's sad to see it coming from Melissa Mark-Viverito and David Yassky. It's downright depressing to see it coming from people like Sam Schwartz, Charlie Komanoff and Brian Lehrer, all of whom really ought to know better.

1 comment:

andrewjc said...

It's not equitable at all.

Varying bus fares by how far a neighborhood is from the subway is not equitable.

Expanding the express bus system is not equitable.

Dumping most of the costs on Manhattan is not equitable.