The Daily News has an exclusive with Jan Gehl, the Danish architect the Department of Transportation would like to hire to help reduce congestion in the city. It's a nice introduction to Gehl, who has worked on congestion-reducing projects in London and Copenhagen, but it also seems like the perfect article to fire up passions. Gehl said, "...we can do is to reduce the number of parking spots. I would raise the price for parking right away." Street parkers, commence the freaking out! Some more Gehl quotes:
"There are so many places in this city where people are treated very badly on the sidewalk, where the congestion is unpleasant. ... The balance is not very good here....
"I question whether it is smart to have all this parking on the avenues which could instead be used for trees, benches and cafes.
"We could take all of the pedestrians out of Times Square or we could take some or most of the traffic out - whatever. I think that should be the strategy for reducing the vehicular traffic in this dense city."
This comes as Mayor Bloomberg is in Washington DC to beg for congestion pricing support. Bloomberg invited congestion pricing skeptic Assemly Leader Sheldon Silver to DC, but Silver isn't there. (His office says he was only invited on Sunday!) Yesterday, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky released his report criticizing the congestion pricing proposal that's currently in Albany, finding the plan unfair and the city's mass transit options unprepared.
Of course, that has spurred more reports: Transportation Alternatives released a study with these three points:
New study finds that arguments against pricing are elitist and flawed and that congestion pricing greatly benefits low and middle-income New Yorkers because:
- The supermajority of New Yorkers—especially middle and low income New Yorkers—are transit riders.
- Congestion pricing is by far the most effective way to improve travel for New York's transit-reliant majority.
- In addition to better-quality and lower-cost transit, congestion pricing will return economic, health and quality of life benefits to small businesses and lower-income New Yorkers, who are disproportionately impacted by high volumes of traffic and pollution.
The other thing that congestion pricing proponents point out is that there are plans to expand bus service. The Drum Major Institute issued a memo explaining why congestion pricing is good (and smacks down Brodsky for "fundamentally misunderstand[ing] the aims of congestion pricing") for the "middle and aspiring middle class" and Assemblyman Rory Lancman offered a congestion pricing alternative.
Mayor Bloomberg's hope is that the Legislature can pass the congestion pricing proposal next week, in order to qualify for $500 million in federal funds. Mayor Bloomberg is also emphasizing congestion pricing's other benefits, "Anybody that tells you that it doesn't matter that our children continue to breathe bad air - 'Don't worry about it. We'll fix the problem some day in some other ways' - shame on them."
Photograph of Times Square by Betty Blade on Flickr