August 08, 2007

Anticongestion Antipricing

Every once in a while a political issue rises up to put your various political beliefs to the test. As a cyclist and bicycle commuter in New York City I'm a huge advocate of Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan. As a pragmatist I like it even more, the track record of congestion pricing in London is stellar, this isn't just an idea du jour, its one that's proven to be both implementable and effective. Bloomberg sometimes moves with a speed that's shocking unpolitical, and he whipped the idea of congestion pricing in NY from a political dead letter to the hot issue of the day in months, and it was easy to get swept up in the enthusiasm. But then it ran straight into some classic legislative congestion in the form of the New York State legislature and all of a sudden no on has any clue where this plan is going. It's in that pause that I remembered one thing and realized another. One congestion pricing is some scary surveillance society shit, and two that there probably is a much better way.

While I'm on my bike I'm pretty much in favor of any idea that gets cars out of the way and away from me. Everyone has there own little biases, and I've come to realize I don't believe anyone behind the wheel of a car has any rights at all. They might be my favorite person in the world, but when they are driving (and I'm not in the car!) well they are just another one of those subhuman driver things... But congestion pricing is something of trojan horse for left, a concept that legitimizes extensive implementation of computer guided video surveillance, a vehicle to make our world feel a whole lot more 1984. Big Bloomberg is watching you, and making sure the streets stay nice and clear for those nice cyclists...

I've got a better idea, instead of building a massive infrastructure to watch the roads and bill the drivers a measly $8 a day, why not make driving in New York City (or at least Manhattan or in the legislative terms the CBD) truly expensive and clear the streets right out. Why not ban public parking? Just cut it out completely. Any vehical left unattended on a Manhattan CBD street gets towed. Real simple.

That's an extra two lanes on just about every street. You could make the left one a bike lane on every street for bonus points, but really I wouldn't even care. Wider streets with less cars would make NYC a cycling paradise with or without bikelanes. And at the rates garages charge in NY that will cut the amount of drivers radically, they'll be paying a whole lot more than $8 a day to drive around downtown that's for sure. Libertarians of all people have been getting hyped to a variation on this idea, but as per there style it's much more money obsessed. There version is that on street parking should be more expensive, that it should be charged at the market rate, in the libertarian eyes on street parking is a subsidized government privilege and they want the subsidy gone. I'll go further though. It's not the cheapness that's a privilege, it's the very existence of parking on the street. Maybe it made sense once, back in the day when cars were rare and stables more common than garages, but in this day and age the question we really need to ask is can cities afford to give that much public space over to parking private vehicles?

Posted by Abe at August 8, 2007 01:58 PM


You are so right about double parking. Tow those lazy jerks. I have some ways we could fine tune your vision to help pedestrians and the community and do away with your big brother willies. That menacing wall of cars parked along the curb is the pedestrians best friend. That stinking wall of steel protects pedestrians from careening cars. I personally think curb parking should be the only parking available in the CBD. Chuck all those centrally located parking lots & structures, make them illegal and relocate them to remote locations served by transit with housing above them. (Build parks, museums, skateboard parks, velodromes, affordable housing in their place.)That will reduce the available parking dramatically and the amount of vehicles that come to the CBD expecting to find parking. Pair this concept with your idea of making things even more expensive. How about charging more for that curb parking. Have the cost fluctuate based on availability. The more spots available the cheaper the parking (sensors embedded in the spot communicate with a central coordination computer. Up goes the cost as scarcity increases. This will encourage drivers to arrive earlier to get scarce parking spreading out the rush hour=less congestion and less cars overall. Give a good chunk of all that parking revenue to the local neighborhood associations to spend on pedestrian & streetscape and traffic calming improvements and maintenance on their new community velodrome. Restripe bike lanes outside the door zone everywhere in the city and take up a whole traffic lane for bikes. Above all NYPD needs to enforce the law and tow those double parkers. Cite speeders; protect us all from those death machines.

Keep in mind Rob Moses' LI parkway whose low bridges, coupled with his quashing of the extension on the Long Island Rail Road to Jones Beach served as a highly effective demographic filter nfor his parks and beaches. Though the barrier of congestion pricing might lack the physicality of an overpass, the economic motives are similar in effect. I think that the city would breath a little easier...yet I can't help but loath the image of a street populated entirely by bikers, buses/taxis, and tunnel people. I'm all for more New Yorkers taking PT, but it hurts that this would open the place up for jersey. Tourniquet the Holland Tunnel and then the main source of our congestion will reduced to a trickle.

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Tia smith
parking sensor

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