Saturday, April 5, 8:00 p.m.
at the College of Complexes
Monitors show that for more than 13 hours per day our highway system is
congested. Tom Murtha, Senior Planner for Strategic Initiatives at CMAP
(Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning) will present a proposal to
implement peak-period fees (congestion pricing) in Chicago similar to
the proposal now being considered in New York (see article below).
Following Mr. Murtha's presentation there will be a short Q & A period
followed by rebuttals in which attendees will be allowed ~3 mins. each
to express their opinions.
The College of Complexes meets at the Lincoln Restaurant, 4008 N.
Lincoln Ave. (Lincoln/Irving Park/Damen). Note: The Irving Park Brown
Line station is closed for reconstruction. Tuition $3 + $5 food/drink
purchase. Info: http://www.collegeofcomplexes.org
Faster, Maybe. Cheaper, No. But Driving Has Its Fans.
By DIANE CARDWELL
Published: March 31, 2008
It was the birth of her son a year and a half ago that put Eden
Matteson, 30, behind the wheel in Manhattan.
It is the guarantee of a plush seat that spurs Eugene Yates, 62, to
steer his creamy white Jaguar to his maintenance job at a courthouse
And it is the ease of ferrying supplies for construction jobs to the
soundtrack of his own choosing that draws Warren William, 32, to the
Nissan Pathfinder that he has outfitted with a touch-screen radio and
DVD player and speakers lining the doors and trunk.
“I really make my car comfortable,” Mr. William said as he waited for a
parking space to open up on Church Street in Lower Manhattan on a rainy
afternoon. “Every time I step in my car, I have my system, I have my
music. I like it really nice and quiet. I like the peacefulness.”
In his administration’s quest to charge drivers to enter the busiest
parts of Manhattan, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has promised to greatly
improve mass transit, including increased subway service and faster bus
routes with high-tech systems to speed them through intersections.
But in a city known for crowded subway platforms and standing-room-only
buses, many residents, even those with robust public transit options,
remain fiercely loyal to their cars. Despite the threat of traffic jams,
honking horns and the urban version of road rage, these New Yorkers
choose to drive, whether to shave time off their commutes, run their
errands with less hassle or have a few moments to themselves inside
“New York is a transit-rich and transit-oriented place,” said Bruce
Schaller, a transportation consultant who is now a deputy commissioner
for planning and sustainability at the city’s Department of Transportation.
Notwithstanding the fact that 1.74 million cars are registered in the
city, most New Yorkers travel by public transportation. But for that
committed knot of drivers, even enhanced services may not lure them onto
fancy new buses, given that, according to Mr. Schaller, 80 percent of
the people who drive into Manhattan during the workday already have
access to mass transit that would take no more than 15 minutes longer.
“Most people who are driving will continue to drive,” he said, adding
that the reasons are generally convenience and speed, or having waited
for a bus in the rain one too many times.
Indeed, a poll conducted last year for the Partnership for New York
City, a business advocacy group that has helped devise and promote the
fee proposal, known as congestion pricing, found that most of those who
drive do so by choice, not by necessity. As a result, congestion-pricing
proponents concluded that the only way to reduce an estimated 810,000
daily vehicle trips into and below Midtown was to charge a fee.
The proposal, whose future is still in question as it approaches the end
of a politically tortuous path through the City Council and the State
Legislature, would charge most drivers $8 to enter a zone below 60th
Street from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays. Whether drivers would face a
charge to move across town on 60th Street has not yet been determined.
In the partnership survey, the most frequent reasons given by drivers
for shunning public transportation were the freedom to come and go as
they liked and the ability to avoid dealing with other people. Mr.
William — who lives within 10 minutes of a subway station in East
Flatbush, Brooklyn, but said he drove into Manhattan below 60th Street
every day — put himself in that camp, saying, “I am just really more
comfortable in my car.”
He said that if the congestion pricing proposal went through, he would
pay the fee, and simply charge his customers more to compensate.
Mr. Yates, too, said he would continue to drive to work despite living
in the Bronx only two blocks from the No. 4 train, although he expects
it will be in a Jeep once he sells the Jaguar.
“It’s bad enough, 10 minutes for 25 cents,” he said, feeding the meter
on Third Avenue near 76th Street between stretches of shopping for a
friend’s daughter at Gymboree. “Then you have to drive around and wait
for parking, then you can’t double-park or they make you move.” But he
puts up with all this, he said, paying $100 a week for parking, to avoid
“I hate standing up when I get in the train station,” he said. “Then you
got to wait on the train, then the train is late, then it’s this, then
it’s that. I can’t stand the hassle.”
For some drivers, like Ms. Matteson, who lives on City Island in the
Bronx, simply getting a few more minutes of sleep is the key. “It’s just
the ease,” she said, sitting in her car on Central Park West near the
American Museum of Natural History as her son, Elijah, slept in the back
“It’s just I have to wake up so much earlier now with the baby, that
getting up even earlier ...” she trailed off, shuddering slightly.
Some New Yorkers, like George Ballina, 65, would drive all the time if
there were more parking spots available. A supermarket meat department
manager who lives in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, and works in the East 20s in
Manhattan, Mr. Ballina said he drove in two or three times a week but
would stop if the congestion charge was approved.
“It gets me closer to the job,” he said, sitting in the car with his
wife in Lower Manhattan. “From the train you have to walk.” In addition,
he said, “it’s an hour and 15 minutes with the train and about 18
minutes with the car. Big difference.”
Of course, there are others who avoid driving whenever they can. “I just
went to pick something up in Midtown, and I thought I was going to shoot
myself,” said Judy Aita, 63, as she got out of her car on Central Park
West, near where she lives. Ms. Aita said she drives mainly to take her
toy poodle, Niles, with her to and from Pennsylvania on weekends, adding
that she was in favor of the mayor’s plan.
“I just see too many people driving when there’s so much available in
mass transit, and I guess people take it for granted,” she said. “I
think people should just park it and take public transportation.”