Congestion Pricing

2nd May
2008

First Published in The New York Sun, May 2, 2008

By Andrew Wolf

Herman Badillo is too much of a gentleman to use his speech accepting the Manhattan Institute’s Alexander Hamilton Award last week to attack the Department of Education over the half-hearted implementation of Mr. Badillo’s pet program to end “social promotion” in our public schools. But the elder statesman still made his point clear, reminding all present that this pernicious practice still lives.

During the years bridging the administrations of Mayors Wagner and Bloomberg, Mr. Badillo’s opposition to the practice of passing students on from grade to grade regardless of their academic achievement has been consistent. Since that time, we have gone through dozens of institutional restructurings of our school system, some major, some minor, most irrelevant.

(more…)

4th April
2008

First Published in The New York Sun, April 4, 2008

By Andrew Wolf

In the late 1750s, fed up with steep tolls on the King’s Bridge, then the only link between New York and the American mainland, the business community of the day underwrote the construction of the Farmers Free Bridge between Manhattan and what we now call the Bronx.

The opening was celebrated at the time by a great barbecue on New Years Day, 1759. In short order, the toll revenue dried up on the King’s Bridge, and the levies were abandoned. The lure of free travel to the mainland turned out to be so compelling that a new road was shortly built connecting the new free bridge with the Boston and Albany Post Roads. It could be argued that this event was a key event in the development of New York as an economic power.

(more…)

24th March
2008

First Published in  The New York Sun, March 24, 2008

By Andrew Wolf

Last week, I spent a half hour debating with Transportation Commissioner Jannette Sadik-Khan over the issue of congestion pricing. Ms. Sadik-Khan came to my Bronx office to pitch her case to the editorial board of the Bronx Press and Riverdale Review newspapers, which I publish.

I have come to the conclusion that congestion pricing is bad public policy for the city. For the vast majority of New Yorkers, those of us in the outer boroughs and upper Manhattan, having an automobile is a defining point of entry into the middle class. Owning a car is a liberating experience - yes, many trips are best made by mass transit, but simply knowing that there is an alternative, one that opens up every corner of the city and beyond, is invigorating. Should we close off to those in poverty today that to which they, too, aspire?

(more…)

7th March
2008

First Published in The New York Sun, March 7, 2008

By Andrew Wolf

We’re coming into the home stretch on Mayor Bloomberg’s “Congestion Pricing” tax plan. The City Council and the state Legislature need to pass or reject this proposal by the end of March, the deadline for coming up with a plan that will enable the city to obtain several hundred millions of federal dollars to help get the scheme underway.

This is money on which we would be well advised to pass, funds that will move us in the wrong direction as we plan for our city’s future.

(more…)

1st February
2008

First Published in The New York Sun, February 1, 2008

By Andrew Wolf

The commission appointed to “study” the mayor’s congestion pricing initiative has come up with a proposal that hardly changes the original plan. This commission was front-loaded with committed proponents of the idea, a kangaroo court if ever there was one - if kangaroos acquit.

There now seems to be a shift in emphasis away from claims by proponents that congestion pricing reduces traffic (only a 6% reduction is projected) or will clear pollution from the air and cure children of asthma. There is now more of an acknowlegement that the plan is about only one thing - creating a new revenue stream.

(more…)

14th December
2007

First Published in The New York Sun, December 14, 2007

By Andrew Wolf

Debate on the mayor’s congestion tax scheme is about to get into high gear. It is clear that there will be modifications to the mayor’s plan. But we need to put aside those details. The main question before us is whether we are willing to open the door to the congestion tax in the first place. The details are immaterial.

I am sure that those who created the first income taxes or sales taxes to meet “emergency” needs would be horrified to see what became of their ideas years later. Tolls, imposed on bridges and roads were supposed to end once the construction bonds were retired. But tolls, like other taxes, keep going up.

(more…)

2nd November
2007

First Published in The New York Sun, November 2, 2007

By Andrew Wolf

In recent weeks I have spent a lot of time thinking about the reasons that I, and many others, occasionally drive into Manhattan, causing all this awful congestion that we hear so much about. My conclusion is that Mayor Bloomberg and other supporters of a congestion tax should be careful for what they wish. We may be a lot better off with congestion than without it.

Suffice it to say that when I do drive into Manhattan it is not to take a joyride to pass the time. Every time I drive into the “Congestion Zone” I am doing so for one reason - to engage in commerce. In other words, I am usually on a mission to spend money, bringing dollars to pump into Gotham’s economy.

(more…)

13th July
2007

First Published in The New York Sun, July 13, 2007

By Andrew Wolf

We’re coming down the home stretch on the congestion pricing mini-marathon. If there is anything that characterizes the Bloomberg style of governance, it is his absolute confidence that his vision for the city’s future is the correct, indeed, the only vision.

Since his vision includes congestion pricing, a radical idea that would normally demand extensive debate, anyone opposing it must, at worst, have some sinister motivation, and, at best, be an idiot.

(more…)

19th June
2007

First Published by The New York Sun, June 19, 2007

By Andrew Wolf

Mayor Bloomberg, in proposing congestion pricing for Manhattan’s business district, is using the argument that his initiative, by reducing air pollution, will cut the rate of asthma in our children. Sounds good, but the problem is that there is no science behind Dr. Bloomberg’s latest prescription.

The mayor writes, “Improving air quality is important to all New Yorkers because in many parts of our city, air pollution is contributing to an increased rate of asthma-related hospitalizations. In fact, in areas like the South Bronx, parts of Brooklyn, and Northern Manhattan — children are hospitalized for asthma at four times the national rate.” (more…)