Still Falling Down

Still Falling Down

September, 2005

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Busy over in the City Council, aren’t they?

The members of the New York City Council obviously need a hobby.
Introduction No. 563 of the New York City Council attempts to regulate the times at which movies can start.

Council Members Brewer, Gerson, James, Koppell, Liu, Nelson, Palma, Perkins, Seabrook, Weprin and Reed are so concerned about the barrage of commercials, promotions and other unrelated media, that they are riding to the rescue of the New York moviegoer. According to this proposed law:

Once the consumer has purchased his or her theater pass, he or she has also acquired the right to view the motion picture free of additional advertising.

Huh? I must have missed that section of the US Constitution. How do rights enter into this?

The introduction goes on to threaten penalties of $1,000.00 for each advertisement which does not contain the actual time at which the movie itself begins. Even if the advertisement did not plan to include any showing times. How about letting people vote with their feet, instead of imposing fines on theatre owners who will simply view it as another cost of doing business? All the fine will accomplish is to raise the price of crappy movies from $11 to $15. Thanks for the protection council members!

As long as we’re discussing the rights of moviegoers, how about the right to smack the mother who brought their tired, screaming 3-year old to the PG-13 movie?

Or to wrap in his own cellophane the the jerk who takes 10 minutes to unpack the sandwich he stuffed in his pants to avoid the theatre’s food police?

How much is the Weiner-dog in the window?

Haven’t seen or heard much speculation on the price paid by Fernando Ferrer’s campaign or the NYC Democratic Party leadership for Anthony Weiner’s sudden withdrawal from the mayoral campaign. Sudden, because he had been quoted hours earlier as saying

I think a runoff wouldn’t be a terrible thing.

So, what price concession?

Was this a simple quid pro quo? Did the Democrats offer Anthony a place in the Ferrer administration? If so, Anthony sold himself cheap, given the odds that Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be re-elected.

Did they threaten his future prospects as a Democratic candidate if he didn’t play ball? Sounds more like the machine we all know and love here in NYC.

Say, can you tell me where to find the…

Yahoo! carries this photo of President Bush writing a note to Condoleeza Rice during the UN Summit in New York.

His note seems to ask Rice “I may need a bathroom break?”. Reuters says this note “falls short of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s vision of freedom”.

Congestion-based pricing rolled out again

The apparent success in London of congestion-based pricing in reducing traffic to the central business district has once again stimulated the ivory tower dwellers to champion it as the savior of Midtown Manhattan. I want to express my dismay over this concept, but I’ll restrict myself to the traffic issues, and will not address the outcry from small business owners in London about the reduction in trade, or their intentions to relocate their establishments.

First and foremost, New York isn’t London. What works there is unlikely to work here. Despite all indications to the contrary, New York City is a part of the United States. The culture of the automobile in the USA is much more deeply ingrained here than in Britain. People will not give up their cars for just a slight increase in costs once they are already in Manhattan. Many of the vehicles which would be targeted by congestion-based pricing would also find a way to pass on these costs to a third party. There needs to be a broader spectrum of disincentives in order to reduce the volume of traffic in Manhattan.

That is what is involved here. The only solution to traffic in this city is the preventing the entry of at least 20,000 of the current number of single-passenger automobiles through the various river crossings. New York is an island, remember. London may be bifurcated by a river, but it is effectively a mainland city. New York is an archipelago, a collection of islands of which Manhattan is the most densely occupied.

Commercial and livery traffic are vital to the economic health of the island, of the city as a whole, and of the entire metropolitan region. Any program whose disincentives apply to those components of vehicle traffic will have wide-ranging, negative economic impact. In fact, one of the central tenets of any traffic reduction plan must be to make commercial deliveries and shared passenger service faster, easier, and cheaper. Congestion-based pricing does not even discuss this aspect, except to make a weak apology for the negative commercial impact it inflict.

Manhattan has seven toll bridge and tunnel crossings and at least six free bridge crossings. In order to reduce the volume of single-passenger, private automobiles entering the island, reduction measures must be implemented at or before these crossings.

New York also has a significant network of public and private mass transit services. This network is prevented from reaching its full potential by various policies which actually encourage driving into Manhattan. On-street parking in Manhattan, lax or misdirected enforcement of parking regulations, inadequate or unavailable parking at suburban train stations, low bridge and tunnel tolls, prioritization of transportation funding towards automobile-oriented systems, and, last, but not least, the gross waste and mismanagement at the MTA, the umbrella agency for the transit network. Creating a better balance between personal and mass transit would be the most effective step in reducing Manhattan congestion.

I have two simple proposals in place of the congestion pricing scheme.

1. Prohibit private passenger automobiles from the free crossings between 5AM and 3PM, Monday through Saturday. This would significantly reduce the crossing times for commercial and livery traffic, one of the most onerous parts of the trip into and out of Manhattan. As for enforcement, the combination of police patrol vehicles and EZPass detectors would prove adequate. Enforcement might not be 100% effective, but any individual driver would know the odds and would be risking getting away with an illicit crossing versus a fairly high fine (and points?).
2. Increase private automobile tolls on the current toll crossings to $20 during the above periods. This would discourage single-passenger vehicles while having a minimal impact on carpools.

It would be prudent, at minimum, to also take steps to address the mass transit disincentives. The reality is that there is no political will to create the consensus required to do so. Perhaps the implementation of my two proposals would drive enough additional traffic towards mass transit to create that kind of constituency, but I doubt it.

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Hastert shows his sensitivity – aides backpedal furiously

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) showed the world how clueless and insensitive it’s possible to become in the insular world of the federal government.

“It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed,” the Illinois Republican said in an interview about New Orleans Wednesday with the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill.

Hastert also claimed that federal aid to New Orleans is not worth the money for just a few thousand lives.

These statements are the latest in the questionable output from the House Speaker. His most extraordinary outburst probably came last August when he accused financier George Soros of receiving money from drug cartels.In April, Haster claimed that Democrats were blocking Ethics committee hearings to prevent investigations into their own misdeeds, and not to institute needed rules changes.

Now his aides are scrambling to spin his statements. They say that he was merely trying to inject fiscal responsibility into the discussion of aid to the areas ravaged by Katrina. Given his history of shoot-from-the-hip whoppers, it’s your choice whether to believe them.

I guess the House really needs someone to replace Jim Traficant.

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