Monthly Archives: March 2012

MBTA Fare Hikes: Where Idealism and Pragmatism Never Meet

A few weeks ago in this space I mentioned Jay Walder’s lecture to a group of transpophlic students at the Kennedy School of Government where he presented the Cerberus of budget balancing tactics for cash strapped transit agencies: raise fares, cut service, increase efficiencies. The first two almost always get press—streamlining data storage or eliminating redundant administrative jobs don’t make for good headlines—and, if you live in the Boston area, you’ll no doubt have seen grumblings about the MBTA’s 23% general fare hike which will be rolled out this summer. (The elimination of four lonely bus routes will has only been mentioned tangentially.) Subway riders will shell out $2.00, bus riders $1.50, and a monthly pass will go from $59.00 to $70.00. Outrage has come from the usual suspects like the T Rider’s Union (who took over a public MBTA meeting clad in superhero garb) and LivableStreets Alliance, a local progressive transportation advocacy group.

But I just can’t really muster up any righteous indignation on this issue. Alright, the MBTA should have balanced their books and lobbied the State House to change the outdated funding techniques which are based on tax revenues projected during headier times. And yes, raising transit fares hits low income neighborhoods especially hard since higher income households are typically car commuters. And yeah, it would have been great if salaries had risen parallel with inflation rates and real costs of living instead of stagnating in the post-Reagan era so low income families wouldn’t have to shell out an increasing proportion of their income towards a transit system that hasn’t seen a capital improvement in decades.

It’s going to sound cold, but these uneven consequences are an intractable aspect of the current transit vernacular. Maintenance, engineering, consulting, accounting, benefits, pensions, etc. are all financially chained to a timeline; it only stands to reason that as those expenses grow the other side of the ledger needs to balance and fare hikes are the simplest and, in many ways, the most appropriate technique to accomplish that. And it completely sucks, but it’s the way  transit is paid for and will continue to be paid for.

Until it’s changed. And there are ample opportunities to change funding mechanisms (some of which have been discussed in this space in the past) but they require complete reconceptualizations of systems and bureaucracies and languages that have been entrenched in every major metro center through the country. There is a dusty linearity here, a mildewed inequality that only starts to run afoul when fare hikes are penciled into administrative schedules like President’s Day and Halloween because no one really considers alternatives—just gripes.

In the end, $2.00 for a subway ride will do minimal damage to most family and personal budgets. (I pay $`104 for a subway pass in NYC—talk about exorbitant). But eventually the nominal price hikes for transit service will catch up to higher and higher cuts of the population unless the prevailing economic realities of the American working class change or transportation administrators rethink how we pay for our buses and subways. Go ahead and guess which one is easier.

Fixing the Suburbs from the Inside Out

If you have even an inkling of the general direction urban studies is going in (and if you’re reading this post, you probably have more than that) you probably know that the suburbs are the wellspring of all things inefficient and dirty and conceited. Loosely packed strips of suburbia spelled economic ruin for overextended budgets throughout the country, and all those two car garages meant an ever-bloating plume of greenhouse gasses floating in our planet’s atmosphere. Suburbs would be the end of this country’s greatness, we are told, and the only way to get back on track was to raze the American Dream of a detached house and a backyard and replace it with a 3rd floor walkup and a subway pass.

Easy enough, right?

But changing the living arrangements of tens of millions of Americans who have been living on stagnant wages isn’t as easy as simply changing their tastes in geography. Sure, cities are getting more and more desirable for young, creative Americans, but how many can afford to stay in the city when they start a family and need to move out of their closet-sized studio? And can you blame the couple that wants their own, personal patch of green without having to wake up the sound of garbage trucks and revelers at 4 AM?

The suburbs, more and more, resemble that escape hatch from the pressures of city life. (My temporary move from Brooklyn to Newport Beach has caused a crisis of conscience. I’m almost anxious thinking about how much easier everything is here compared to NY.) It’s the easy way out. Walking 5 blocks to the dirty, either freezing or boiling subway to wait for a train and get to the crowded and overpriced grocery store, or hop in your car, drive five minutes, and not have to carry your groceries more than 60 collective feet. Yes, there are days when I wish for the suburbs—I can hear the collective groan of my hardened urbanist friends now.

But more often than not, we here at Radials understand the severe inefficiencies and inequalities that the suburbs breed, from economic to environmental to demographic. They can’t be unbuilt though, so here’s a list of what of current problems and potential fixes that our low-density dwellers can drive in the near-future:

1. Energy and Resource Use

Vertical living relatively easy on the earth: hot water is typically communal cutting out the need for individual tanks for every 3 or 4 people, electricity distribution is concentrated as is potable water infrastructure and heating, and smaller abodes typically mean less intense energy use.  You’re also squeezing more people into less space allowing goods and services to be more efficiently parceled out—you’d be surprised how much those fleets of mail and garbage trucks affect the environment through their collective emissions when they have to go house to house instead of building to building.

 Fixing the Suburbs from the Inside Out

Most of the efficiencies that can squeezed out of the suburbs are in transportation-related improvements (much more on that later) but there is still ground to be broken on immobile energy technology. Solar water heaters have been installed on top of 30 million households in China and the technology has gotten to the point where the panels operate under less than heliophilic conditions. District heating, where temperatures for thousands of homes can be regulated by a single, centralized plant, has been embraced by countries in Europe and Asia and plants are increasingly turning away from fossil fuels in favor of alternative energy. The best part: neither technology is density dependent. You can have your yard and trimmed hedges and nosy neighbors and still heat your house and your showers without the inconvenient plume of carbon dioxide.

(Note: I am not addressing alternative electricity sources for the suburbs here on purpose. There are quite a few choices out there on the market but none of them have been terribly successful and are almost universally price out anyone outside the top quintile of income brackets unless you’re an enterprising electrician with some spare solar cells lying around. As reductive as this sounds, the market will (with some help from choice subsidies) end up dictating the next step in residential energy production after fossil fuel production becomes either exorbitantly expensive or morally unsavory. The question is more about time horizons than innovation at this point.)

 Fixing the Suburbs from the Inside Out

Suburbs Courtesy www.infrastructurist.com

2. Environmental Degradation Due to Development

There’s an amazing amount of resources that go into building detached houses individually, but even more disturbing is the volume of destruction that developers produce when they build clusters of tract housing. If you’ve ever traveled through the American west (Arizona and California especially; Las Vegas for true suburban dystopia) you’ll have seen the razed acres dotted with Version 1, Version 2, Version 3, etc. of a given set of prefabricated houses connected by curving asphalt and cursory greenways and bordered by a shoddy brick barrier or, in a nod to Czarist Russia, wrought iron gates.

Suburban development harms the environment for a pretty simple reason: they’re new. New buildings, even if they’re built out of recycled pizza by a hemp clad all-vegan construction crew and go LEED triple platinum, still leave a foundation-sized footprint and, as the well worn theory goes, used always trumps new when it comes to the environment. Those negative impacts are magnified when firms decide to build sub-developments in geographies that are, outside of millions of dollars in resource infrastructure, generally uninhabitable. Thousands of people were never meant to live in the Nevada of Arizona desert, so why are we building sprawling ranch houses with lush green lawns outside of Las Vegas and Tucson? Well, because we keep buying them.

Once again the secret to improving the environment is in the economy. When you buy a house in the ‘burbs, you are buying a final realization, a product of brick and mortar and sweat and engineering without having to pay for the externalities associated with the your home—the miles of pipe sucking water from an overworked aquifer, the stretch of concrete from your garage to a major onramp, etc. The non-inclusive (and often, non-monetized) costs are called externalities and there has been a decades’ long clamoring to capture these costs correctly in the form of excise taxes. The argument has generally been focused on drivers who have been paying a paltry $0.184 in gas taxes to the Federal government for two decades—even conservative economists say that it doesn’t even begin to capture the true cost of driving.

So what if we actually made developers and surburbanites pay the true cost of that immaculate green rectangle and spare bedroom? It sounds coldly practical but monetizing and penalizing for environmental degradation is among the only ways to actually influence development and consumer actions; if you want to move to the middle of the desert and expect a constant source of freshwater where there just isn’t any, then you (and the firm that built your home) should have to pay for more than just the infrastructure, you should have to pay what it actually costs the environment as a whole.

3. Transportation

If there’s one thing about living in suburban California I’ve learned it’s that driving is a necessity. The nearest grocery store is 1.5 miles away, my brother’s school is another 5, and the majority of jobs are between 10 and 50. There’s a bus system on main thoroughfares but, in what seems like a complete slap in the collective face of urban planning and/or simple logic, residences aren’t on any of the main thoroughfares. Getting around in these brands of suburbs is 100% car dependent that even a doubling or tripling of transit infrastructure would still only provide a marginal decrease in the proportion of families needing more than one car. Transportation in the suburbs is not a structural problem, it’s a geographic one.

As we’ve discussed at Radials recently, petroleum prices will ebb and flow with futures traders, Middle East chaos, and general demand. $4 per gallon gas isn’t enough to change driving habits significantly nor is it enough to spur ambitious and ubiquitous pursuit towards alternative methods of propulsion. The general consensus, though, is that oil production will peak and begin a relatively swift decline especially as the economies of India, China, and Brazil step up their demand for light sweet crude and Americans will eventually be looking down the barrel at $10 or $12 gasoline—more than enough to drive major automotive manufacturers towards something other than combustion engines.

suburb Fixing the Suburbs from the Inside Out

We’ve seen what industry titans like Nissan and Chevrolet can do with relatively modest cuts of their R&D budgets, as well as what boutique companies like Tesla and, more recently, Fisker can cut from whole cloth (though both companies have come under scrutiny for favoring form over function, though the form is pretty fantastic) in terms of all electric vehicles and several major builders have experimented with hydrogen-powered vehicles that spout water as their sole byproduct, but these are almost exclusively niche products favored by tony environmentalists and have yet to hit the market as anything more than a gimmick. (The rather large exception being the Toyota Prius which some say is purchased as more a badge of “conspicuous environmentalism” as a good friend puts it than a nod to true stewardship—and of course runs on gasoline. Also, it should be noted that upwardly mobile CAFE standards are not a solution to car emissions since most drivers tend to increase their miles traveled in tandem with their fuel economy.)

Of course, there is the argument that the volume of emissions and waste that goes into actually making a new car from scratch almost negates the effect that any low-or-zero emission car will have over its lifetime. But that theory lacks foresight. If alternative energy vehicles begin to switch market positions with their petrol-powered counterparts then eventually you create a secondary market that is essentially zero-impact and, by proxy, allow communities that are auto-based become saturated with earth friendly cars.

That endgame is down the road, admittedly, but one wonders what auto manufacturers could do if they really put their collective backs into creating more than niche vehicles—if electric cars could be more than a novelty for upperclass environmentalists. Would two car garages be as menacing to the progressive urbanist if they housed a Leaf and a Volt?

We’ve gotten ourselves into a mess when it comes to suburban sprawl but it’s not the type of problem that can be solved through tearing down and building back up. The imprint of the suburbs will last for decades in this country, and people will continue to leave apartment blocks for ranch houses and colonials for reasons of cost and aesthetics and health while simultaneously degrading the environment and straining the country’s infrastructure. Inefficiencies abound but razing the ‘burbs isn’t the answer (as much as many of you want it to be!), changing the culture is a much cleaner alternative.

Making the Commute a Little More Fun (with Beer)

After college, I took a job as a consultant with a small firm that worked solely with the Federal government on projects for USDOT/RITA. I had a small studio in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston and commuted to work every morning to Cambridge on the subway, leaving my apartment around 7:45 and arriving at work around 8:30. The morning commute was never awful; cars came every few minutes so on those rare occasions that the Green Line was packed you could simply wait for the next train. The evening commute was another story. Park Street, which serves as a major intersection for Boston and Cambridge bound transit lines, was a swarthy sardine can in the summer and a slushy mix of faux fur, nylon, and L.L Bean boots. Students, professionals, and the more than occasional drunk suburbanite tried to pack into trains but, unlike almost every other city I’ve ridden a subway line save for Paris, didn’t pack, well, efficiently enough to get everyone in one car. So we all waited. And, most of the time, waited some more.

The evening commute, no matter where you are, is uniquely tortuous. Sure, the morning commute is tiring and, if you really hate your job, festering with anxiety. But when you leave work, whether it’s at 4 or 5 or 6, and you start making the trek home you are sacrificing valuable clusters of free time to the altar of boredom. Sure you can read on your iPad or Kindle, you can text your friends who are probably doing the exact same thing as you are, but those hours spent on the train or subway or bus or hatchback are empty. And when you spend the better parts of the day (i.e. the part of the day when the sun is out) sitting inside an office or in a cubicle (like I did) there is nothing worse than openly squandered hours.

Perfect example: my roommate. He takes the Long Island Railroad home to Brooklyn every evening, the ride from his job in Cedarhurst to Atlantic Terminal taking about an hour. Now, he’s actually found a decent outlet for his time spent on the stained fabric seats of the LIRR: DJ-sets and mixtapes, but for those days that you can’t be bothered to match BPMs on  a Journey and J Dilla track you might want something a little more relaxing, like have a drink with some like minded individuals; a bar car with some personality.

bar car commuter train new haven Making the Commute a Little More Fun (with Beer)

Photo by Life Magazine

The best proposition I’ve heard is this: have the last car on given evening trains dedicated to people who share a similar sporting interest (let’s say the Knicks), demarcate the car so that no unwitting families wander into the fray, and let stressed out office drones relax and cheer or groan for an hour of the day.  Alcohol is nothing new to commuters coming in and out of New York City five days a week. (Two years ago the Times ran a piece about the beverage preferences of Metro-North and LIRR riders finding that the well-heeled Metro North riders heading to Connecticut and northern New York suburbs prefer wine almost twice as much as Long Islanders, and that LIRR riders really knock back the hard liquor and Bud Lights.) This isn’t turning LIRR or Metro-North or any of the other commuter services into a rolling sports bar, but loosening infrastructure’s tie somewhat on very select services—this isn’t exactly a kegger on the subway.

Hitting the sauce on the train is something that commuters just do, but it seems like we’re wasting a beautiful opportunity to not only increase revenues for transportation systems that are simply treading water and make your commute that much more enjoyable. But instead of anonymously drinking with nothing to watch but the slightly overweight guy from accounting try and schmooze with Jenna from sales, why can’t we watch (and don’t worry if you don’t get these references) Melo knock down a midrange jumper or JR Smith take an ill advised three? Have a beer, watch the game, just make sure you can still get off at the right stop.

What do we all think? Would this encourage illicit behavior on commuter trains? Can the MTA afford to loosen up a little bit? Would you watch a Knicks/Yankees/Mets/Rangers game with relative strangers on a moving vehicle? Would Boston try this and end with up a few too many drunks?

 

bar car 1024x691 Making the Commute a Little More Fun (with Beer)

Finding a Break Point for Gasoline Prices

I’m a little late on the gas price bandwagon with analysis and meta-analysis already covering most of the major transportation and urbanism blogs across the domestic blogosphere. Everyone agrees on a few things: that the public is misguided in thinking that President Obama can influence gas prices in any significant way, that gas prices were artificially low for at least two decades hence, that America still has some of the cheapest gas in the world, and that we are beginning to see the effects of so-called Peak Oil. High concepts are relatively easy to reach consensus on, but what is significantly less clear is what these climbing prices means for the average family.

gas pump Finding a Break Point for Gasoline Prices

Gas spikes typically mean fewer miles spent on the road for obvious reasons. And given the stubborn economic malaise in this country there is worry that upward pressure at the pump in 2011 means something different than it did a decade ago and that (gasp) high gas prices could even put the brakes on a recovering economy. Unfortunately most of the panic is based on heuristic evidence which leaves little to no room in the debate for hard statistics on what the most recent crisis means empirically for families, but thanks to the pollsters at Gallup we now have a decent guess.

According to a Gallup survey published on March 8th, the breaking point for most American families lies somewhere between $5.30 and $5.35—a full $1.50 more than the average American is paying for one gallon of regular unleaded and $1.20 more than those filling up their Benzs and Beamers with premium based on today’s AAA Fuel Gauge Report, a daily report based on up to 100,000 filling station prices. Even more telling is that only 17% of Americans would have to alter their spending habits at gas prices under $4.00 (current average price of regular unleaded: $3.846.)

Gallup Poll Finding a Break Point for Gasoline Prices

The statistics aren’t perfect, of course. States that have low state gas taxes like Georgia and Missouri (as well as Alaska which doesn’t collect one at all) are affected less by real prices of gasoline than states like California and New York, where state gas taxes are higher and demand is extremely high (Californians are paying an average of $4.348 today). Low density states like California, Texas, and Oklahoma are also faced with little recourse to driving nearly everywhere, whereas populations in infrastructure heavy states like New Jersey are able to simply shift their mode of transportation given a shift in pricing. Gas price impacts are understandably lumpy.

Still, with only two states at within one dollar of Gallup’s breakpoint (Hawaii joins California, though we should really consider Hawaii as an exception for obvious geographical reasons) is there much of a reason to panic? Not particularly, and for many progressive transportation advocates this should be viewed as a free look into the politics of raising gas prices whether it’s a “natural” market phenomenon like this or a potentially artificial one like a gas tax hike. Unfortunately the violent outcry against high gas prices and the absolute inability for a majority of Americans to understand exactly what drives gas prices to do what they do even though they think they do (phew) has shown that there is no taste for paying fair market price for a gallon of fuel (and it should be added that this author doesn’t pretend to fully understand the lever-pulling and politicking that goes into gasoline prices). Gasoline consumers (much like public transit consumers in an odd twist of infrastructure fate) would rather not face the complex economic realities of their chosen good—that it is much more complicated than point-t0-point navigation and that price is not a reflection of mood or climate but of competing realities.

(Aside: the environmental argument doesn’t even merit consideration here because it’s almost superfluous. We are consuming a finite resource that has eluded optimal management practices for everyone outside of a few OPEC countries who shrewdly know how to control their taps; it’s market heresy to want to pay a semi-fixed price [<$3.00/gal let's say] when we are sliding down the supply line steadily yet many who embrace that brand of economics don’t see it that way. Untapped domestic petroleum sources buy us another 15 years, a middling piece of temporal real estate geopolitically speaking.)

So we’re sort of stuck. Gas prices will continue to oscillate with the seasons and panic will undoubtedly tag along. We will continue to care and then, somehow, not care until we care again. It’s just gas, after all, and we can always get more.

NYCDOT’s DriveSmart Technology Brings Intelligent Driving One Stop Closer

The technologies they’re putting into our cars nowadays seems hell bent on taking us out of the equation as quickly as possible. Lexuses (Lexi?) and Fords can parallel park by themselves. Volvos can tell you when some one is in your blind spot and you can now tell your Kia what music to play like its KITT’s more artistic cousin.  All these advances can be filed under the term “Driver Facing Technology” (DFT) because they are geared towards making you a better driver by eliminating or simplifying habits that involve a lot of spatial negotiations or acute awareness, and with the ubiquity of distracting technology hitting critical mass maybe making us less a part of the equation is a good thing.

That crop of research and development is all well and good but remains solipsistic, an important qualification when you consider most of our decisions are based on other drivers’ decisions. Driving, whether it’s in the city or the highway, is best imagined as a complicated system of interdependent actors, so when you add a technology that aids an individual driver you are not necessarily creating a more efficient system. To do that you need a technology that allows for feedback within the structure, a symphonic advance instead of a solo.

Currently, the major movements in that direction have come from the Federal government and from private industry. USDOT/RITA’s Connected Vehicles program is attempting to bring infrastructure and vehicles into closer harmony by developing technologies and applications that facilitate efficient congestion management through radio-frequency identification (RFID), easing the anxieties of privacy advocates and allowing for constant communication between cars and streets. Volvo has developed “vehicle platooning” where cars wirelessly follow lead drivers at constant speeds allowing drivers the option to take their mind off driving when they’re traveling long distances. There is an outlier though: the DriveSmart program currently under development by NYCDOT.

DriveSmart has a lot in common with the Connected Vehicles program; both are geared towards congestion management, so-called “eco-driving”, and information dissemination. However, where Connected Vehicles is going through a decade-long research and development program necessary for a national project, DriveSmart is allowed more flexibility in both policy and incubation because of its size relative to the Federal government.

There’s no doubt that New York is in dire need of advanced driver-side technology. If you’ve ever tried to navigate SoHo when commuters are heading back through the Holland Tunnel, or forgot that it was the Manhattan and not the Williamsburg Bridge that was under construction on a Saturday night, or wondered if the subway or that cute pedicab was a better option than a taxi, then you understand New York’s transportation problem has more than a few leaks to plug. But imagine for a second that you need to go downtown after a Saturday dinner at Taqueria y Fonda in Morningside Heights. You have your car, but it’s Saturday night it’s probably going to take you a while no matter what route you take—but are you sure? What separates DriveSmart from a simple GPS module is that it would supply you with not only real time traffic and route suggestions, but also predictive time and financial costs between modes and, if you’re the environmental type, the “green option” of travel.

It’s not that DriveSmart is going to solve every congestion problem in New York, nothing outside of a universal congestion charge or a manic pedestrian rights movement will ease the choking traffic in the City. But DriveSmart does begin to introduce drivers to the systemic nature of driving in a city, that your decisions affect other decisions the amalgam of which drives the extremely complex management technique present at NYCDOT. NYCDOT is also in the middle of a data -driven renaissance, spearheaded by the transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan; the city is beginning to discuss transportation systems in numbers instead of emotion. DriveSmart is the natural extension of that idea, the benefits of which will be staring you in the face as you speed around town.

Bill Keller and Sam Schwartz on Variable Pricing for New York

When former MTA and TfL Chairman Jay Walder spoke to a class I was sitting in on at the Kennedy School of Government he said that when you have a revenue shortfall (as nearly every mass transit system in America does) you can do three things: cut routes, raise fares, or increase administrative efficiency. That trio of choices each have their associated criticisms—the first two affect poor and disabled people disproportionately, the last means severe rounds of layoffs—but they are the only internal options a transit authority has when they’re faced with red which means that the fiduciary creativity needs to be an outside effort undertaken by either larger government valves (such as the Governor or Mayor’s office, or even the Dept. of Transportation) or monomaniacally devoted individuals. It seems as though the New York Times has brought attention to one of the latter.

traffic2 Bill Keller and Sam Schwartz on Variable Pricing for New York

Photo by Kate Hinds

Sam Schwartz is a pretty well-known name in planning and progressive transportation policy circles: he founded one of the most successful transportation engineering firms in New York City and designed the traffic plans for Atlantic Yards and the Ikea in Red Hook, among others. Bill Keller, the former executive editor the Times, has brought his name to the general public. In an Op-Ed published on March 4th Keller laments the “demise” of New York’s mass transit system:

IF you live in New York, commute to New York, or occasionally visit what Russell Shorto called the island at the center of the world, you have experienced the indignity of our city’s transportation hell. You have endured the screeching, flood-prone subways. You have surrendered exorbitant carfare to escape our eyesore airports, then lurched along congested highways, over creaking bridges and into our truck-clotted city streets. You have dodged the camping homeless at the Port Authority bus terminal, or wandered lost in the miasmal misery of Pennsylvania Station. New York City welcomes you with open arms — like the zombies in “The Walking Dead.”

Nevermind the inane condescension in Keller’s opening salvo (it’s obvious that Keller is not a transportation expert nor one for subtlety, every sentence is steeped in mid-20th century thinking and he doesn’t even address the lack of access as the prime issue facing the 5 million New Yorkers who don’t live in Manhattan) if you can, the point is that there are infrastructure problems in New York that go beyond the cost of a monthly subway pass and the volume of cars on the streets. Schwartz presents an idea that goes beyond the typical congestion pricing concept that has failed to pass in New York thanks to well-heeled suburbanites and their state representation. He wants the CBD (below 60th Street in Schwartz’s plan) to be a variable price charge zone similar to London and Stockholm, but also supports a complete restructuring of the bridge tolls, eliminating levies on the Verrazano and Triborough bridges and reinstating all other tolls on the East River (Personal Aside: I live in Brooklyn often on that late night or weekend in Manhattan it is damn near impossible to get home without a cab [the Q and B are often closed] so this would add a lot to a fare, but we’ll discuss that below).

Sam Schwartz Engineering  Bill Keller and Sam Schwartz on Variable Pricing for New York

Sam Schwartz. Copyright Crains New York/ Buck Ennis

Variable congestion pricing (also known as market based congestion pricing) isn’t a novel concept—at this point it’s the pet theory of the traffic engineering community (another, more extreme plan by the transportation theorist Charles Kumanoff, calls for extremely high charges on commuters resulting in free mass transit for all; Kumanoff’s plan is admirable but I’m afraid it wouldn’t get past the Albany city limits). But Schwartz presents the case from multiple angles to preempt his critics, something that progressive planners have neglected in the past. Poor people win because the MTA will get a $1.2 billion injection, rich people win because they can travel downtown faster (Schwartz shows that drivers have a higher median income than transit users, a fact that most people state but usually don’t prove), and New York wins because the air will be cleaner and everyone can get around easier. There are, of course, still losers (like us broke Brooklynites!) in this system such as middle-class commuters who drive for myriad reasons; an additional charge for them will have a higher marginal impact than for tony Greenwichers and Scarsdalians. Still, there is no uniformly effective plan for New York infrastructure and this one marks most of the correct boxes politically and financially, something we haven’t seen for a long time.

I encourage readers to check out Sam Schwartz’s excellent Powerpoint PDF presentation here.