As you may know, here in New York City we’re waiting to find out if our state’s legislature thingy will approve Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan, and the deadline is today. Basically, congestion pricing would mean that drivers of motor vehicles entering midtown Manhattan would have to pay a fee, and the idea is to cut down on traffic, smog, and idiots. If you want to know more about the plan or the politics surrounding it, check out Streetsblog or the New York Times, since looking for actual information here is like looking for derailleurs on Fixedgeargallery.
I’m all in favor of congestion pricing. After all, supposedly it works in London, and everybody knows New York gets all of its ideas from London. (The subway, pubs, and English are just three examples.) However, I also think Bloomberg’s plan stops short of perfection. Certainly he has to appease people, but here are a few more components I’d like to see added at the 11th hour:
A Complex Schedule of Surcharges
In addition to the base fee for cars and trucks, I'd like to see the following additional fees tacked on:
Vehicles with vanity plates: $2.00
Vehicles with vanity plates that simply re-iterate the make or model of the vehicle: $5.00
Vehicles with license plates from states that include their URL on the plate out of desperation because they’re “loser” states (I’m looking at you, Pennsylvania): $10.00
Any vehicle bearing a presidential campaign sticker: $1.50
Any vehicle bearing a presidential campaign sticker for an election that has already passed: $2.50
Any vehicle bearing a sticker or emblem espousing the driver’s religious beliefs: $5.00
Any vehicle whose driver must compulsively advertise his or her ownership of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle through the use of stickers, decals, license plate frames, or spare tire covers: $10.00
Any vehicle with an “Eddie Bauer” trim package: $50.00
Any Swedish or English vehicle: $15.00
Any vehicle with a roof rack that has provisions for hauling more than one type of outdoor recreational equipment: $5.00 per additional equipment mount
Any vehicle being operated in “manu-matic” or “dork” mode: $7.00
Escalade-Pushing Moto-tards: $125.00
A Ban on Fresh Direct Deliveries
Fresh Direct is a company that delivers gourmet groceries to your home in a giant truck. You can generally find these trucks parked in bike lanes and stopping traffic for blocks as they replenish the Sub-Zero refrigerators of Park Slope brownstone owners who don’t want to use their Audis for fear of losing their parking spaces. Fresh Direct only operates in the nicer New York City neighborhoods, which means if you live in one of their delivery zones you also probably already live within walking distance of a high-end supermarket that stocks the sorts of organic exotica you can’t live without. Fresh Direct argue that their methods are more environmentally friendly than traditional supermarkets, which may or may not be true. But one thing is for sure: they cause more congestion than a Persian cat in an asthma ward. I’ve literally seen fire engines stuck behind double-parked Fresh Direct trucks with their sirens blaring. So unless Fresh Direct starts training their drivers to put out four-alarm blazes with bok choy and Pom juice, I say they do way more harm than good.
A Ban on Zip Cars
Zip Cars are the motor vehicle equivalent of those public bikes they have in Europe. Basically the service allows members to grab a car, drive it around for awhile, and then drop it off somewhere else. Zip claims that their service actually cuts down on car usage, arguing that their members choose not to own cars. This makes no sense. They’re offering access to cars cheaply and conveniently. How does this cut down on driving? It’s like McDonald’s claiming that their customers eat fewer hamburgers because they don’t have cows at home. There’s even a smug little quote on their website from someone named Martha which says, “Keeping a car in your driveway when you’re concerned about global warming is like keeping cookies in your cupboard when you’re trying to lose weight.” What a load of self-righteous, organic, locally-grown crap. Keeping a car in your driveway doesn’t hurt the environment at all. It’s the driving that causes emissions, so unless Zip car users are paying to simply look at the cars then they’re spewing just as much carbon monoxide as anybody. Plus, you get the unique pleasure of sharing the road with infrequent drivers in unfamiliar automobiles. If you’ve ever rented a car, gotten stuck in a sudden downpour, and realized you had no idea where the wiper switch was, you have an idea of what Zip car drivers are like every day. I'd rather share the road with taxis than with Zip cars. Because the worst New York City drivers are the ones with no experience driving it it.