Still Falling Down

Still Falling Down

Life in NYC

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Oh, for a play on Broadway

I saw Tarzan on
Broadway the other night. Not the ape-man, but the
pallid Disney
pablum.
If anyone suggests going to see this particular entertainment, kill them. The 8 to 25 years in jail (assuming no one in the jury has seen it) will be infinitely preferable to the 2 hours of abject misery in the theatre.

The New Yorkers leaving the theatre all had looks of stunned disbelief on their faces. The out-of-towners, of course, loved it and gave it a standing ovation. Well, not
all
out-of-towners loved it.

Best line leaving the theatre: “I liked the movie better”. They were referring, obviously, to the cartoon.

I think I remember seeing a play on Broadway once. It was an uplifting experience. No music. Just some very talented actors making the audience think and feel. Back
downtown to off-off-Broadway, I guess.

PHP Conference in New York

The New York PHP Users Group has announced that it will hold a PHP Conference in New York City in June. NYPHP is not the typical techie user group where a bunch of spotty geeks sit around telling war stories. NYPHP has monthly presentations with substantial content on a variety of topics, offers classes, not only in PHP syntax, but in practical implementations as well, including security issues.

To find out what PHP represents as an full-strength solution to enterprise-class problems and as an alternative to that bloated, (see also) marketing hype whose name we won’t mention, attend this conference.

Sign-Up Now To Lock in Your Early Bird Discount
http://www.nyphpcon.com/attendee_registration.php

The Call For Papers is Now Open
http://www.nyphpcon.com/call_for_papers.php

Official Press Release is Available
http://www.nyphpcon.com/NYPHPCon06PR.pdf

MTA looks to buy some votes with your money

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has generated a proposal to cut subway and bus fares by 50% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. According to the Authority’s 2006 Financial Plan, as a result of the Gap Closing Program, their New York City Transit division will save $43.7 million with a reduction of 432 positions. These positions are involved in the delivery of new subway cars, the design of new electrical and signalling systems, and, of course, station, car and bus maintenance.

“Gap Closing Program”? Why does a organization with a billion-dollar surplus need a Gap Closing Program? Or is there really a surplus? Will we hear next year about the deficit? Sounds a little too Enron/Worldcom/Adelphia to me.

The money New York City residents have been paying in increased fares, which we are told is needed for system upkeep, will go to subsidize the tourist invasion of Manhattan during the holidays, but also to buy your votes on the Transportation Bond Act. I happen to be in favor of this bond issue, since I haven’t been able to find where they’ve hidden the line items which will actually go to operational expenses instead of capital expenditures. As a rule, though, I just don’t like vote buying.

So, the trains, buses and stations will be dirtier, the new trains will be delayed another year, signalling improvements will take a few more years to design and even more years to install. And we’ll take on more debt.

So, thanks MTA Executive Director Katherine Lapp, for a thoughtful proposal. And I’m sure the suburban commuters (of which, Katherine, you would be one if you didn’t have an Authority provided car and driver) whose rides are subsidized at the expense of city dwellers will continue to thank you. Oh, and how’s that 22% salary increase from Pete Kalikow holding up?

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.

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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