Rumor Mill: Sustainability Announcement Tomorrow

Word has it that the Bloomberg Administration’s new Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability will unveil its first work product this coming Wednesday, November 15. It looks like this initial public announcement will be oriented more around the problems that the new office is thinking about and working on rather than the solutions. The solutions, I am told, may start to emerge as a part of the Mayor’s State of the City speech in January.

There are high hopes that tomorrow’s public unveiling, whatever it may show, begins to lay the groundwork for a serious traffic reduction program in New York City, perhaps in the form of London-style congestion charging. With this year’s elections out of the way there is no longer any worry that the inevitably difficult public discussion of congestion charging might force a gubernatorial candidate into a corner. Governor Elect Spitzer’s vow to raise subway fares only as a last resort almost guarantees an MTA fiscal crisis in the coming months. Might a fiscal crisis also serve as the impetus for a congestion charging push? Among political insiders there is a feeling that the only possible way to sell congestion charging to New York is in response to a serious crisis. In other words, the Doctor needs to make it clear that the patient is sick and needs to make dificult, but ultimately fulfilling, lifestyle changes.

janette.jpgWe have heard that the Partnership for New York City’s secretive, years-long congestion charging study is far along in its analysis and modeling. The project is being masterminded by Janette Sadik-Khan at Parsons Brinckerhoff (pictured right). A serious candidate for DOT commissioner when Michael Bloomberg was first elected mayor, Sadik-Khan’s resume includes a stint as the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Transportation for New York City during the Dinkins Administration. Transportation consultant Bruce Schaller is also working on a congestion charging study for the conservative think tank, the Manhattan Institute.

All of which leads us to a more pressing issue: Can anyone out there come up with a better name for it than "congestion charging?"

Traffic Relief Zone, anyone?

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