This is very sad news. Bloomberg worked hard for a congestion charge, though his political management in Albany was apparently pretty inept; the policy is sound in many ways,;and it’s simply absurd that legislators from beyond the city and its suburbs should have anything to say about it anyway. (I have to admit, having recently spent a few days in New York, that it’s not clear that even the New York transit system has capacity for a large increase in ridership. When I was a kid, most people stood up during two rush hours, but now the crowding is severe at those times, train headways are already quite short, and there are often no seats at midday and well into the evening.)
Still, the planet can’t afford many more of these failures, where good programs go down under an assault of whining demands that no-one should actually have to lift a finger. When did “I’ll do my share…and not a penny more” become a moral principle decent people would admit to? Of course it will cost commuters more money (if they keep on driving) or time (if they find another way); all the people who would rather use transit (or move closer in) at current prices have already done so. Smug, ignorant, selfishness is not a monopoly of westerners who want freedom from government and, of course, water paid for by others. And of course change hurts the poor: that’s what it means to be poor, that you don’t have a lot of options. But poverty should be dealt with reasonably, not by throwing it in the path of everything new (or by a bunch of in-kind subsidies for a zillion thises and thats). Giving the scarce resource of street space free to whoever wants to drive in it must be about the least efficient way to help the poor and the sinking middle class.
One more time: we’re not going to save the planet without enormous investments in infrastructure; not just twiddling with HOV lanes here and there or piddling increases in gas mileage. We need to have the political will to take houses for transit rights-of-way and face down NIMBY whiners, and to tax ourselves really painfully. And we have to live differently from the way we do now, not exactly the same while someone else does something green for us.
Of course, it’s a free-rider problem and a prisoners’ dilemma. Of course it’s not fair that the need to control global warming came along before a couple billion people got to have their few decades in cars and suburbs, and after a few tens of millions invested their wealth in an unsupportable and illusory suburban dream. I just hope it’s a lot of comfort to our grandchildren that we put hundreds of millions of refugees on the road from low places because we couldn’t figure out how to do anything else without inflicting any pain.