My Meter Is Running

November 29, 2007 at 11:03 pm 5 comments

Just got back from the Dept. of Transportation’s congestion pricing workshop at Forest Hills Jewish Center. There were only about 20 people there, with another 15 DOT-related, press, or otherwise special-interest people milling about. It was a disappointing turnout, but those who did attend were thoughtful and active participants. There were two tables of “brainstorming,” that is, discussing parking issues in Forest Hills, potential ramifications of congestion pricing on the neighborhood, and what the solutions might be. There were facilitators at each table to lead the discussion.

One of the first things asked is if a decision had been made on congestion pricing. The DOT person and its hired consultant categorically denied that any decision had been made, that we were there to discuss all of the problems and possible solutions surrounding parking. (DOT has hired a consulting firm to research parking issues and run these workshops in Forest Hills, LIC, Central Harlem, UES/Manhattan, Atlantic/4th Ave Brooklyn, Brooklyn Hts/Boerum Hill/Ft. Greene, and the Yankee Stadium area.)

Despite the open-minded attitude of the facilitators, who were extremely affable and professional, the evening had a “handled” feel to it, and participants were grooved along a preexisting agenda. There were handouts with specific talking points, and we were helpfully reminded to stay on task. No complaint; it was the DOT’s event. But it’s my blog, so here are my talking points about the evening:

1. There is a very good chance that congestion pricing is going to happen.
2. What needs to be figured out in advance is how to assuage disgruntled residents (like you and me) in those areas (like Forest Hills) that would likely become park-and-rides (more than they already are) for people from Long Island and elsewhere who want to avoid paying the admission fee to get into central Manhattan.
3. Residential Parking Permits (RPP) are getting a serious tumble. The concept has been batted about for years in the DOT, but up until now it has never gained enough traction. And this is what I mean about handling. After much respectful discourse among participants, where everyone had his or her say and felt part of a problem-solving process, the facilitators pulled out their aha! idea that trumped every other: “RPP with a twist.” By this, even metered streets become RPP at least for an hour on each side every day, so that outsiders who park and then jump on the subway or LIRR to Manhattan would not be able to move their cars while at work all day and would get ticketed. Thus they would think twice about foregoing public transportation closer to home. This was by far the most discussed and positively received idea of the evening.
4. Other discussion points included: fee or no fee for RPP?; how to accommodate visitors/overnight guests (would be resolved by “RPP with a twist”); how to accommodate people who commute to work in Forest Hills; and technology issues, e.g., “smart parking meters,” or parking chips or Muni-meters.

I walked into the workshop neutral about all of this and left confused. Two things gnawed at me. The first is that while the proceeds of congestion pricing are to be poured into improving mass transit overall (a supposed equity for all), this would be yet another benefit to less-congested Manhattan while we are squeezed as part of the deal. The more mature me, however, says that not every solution can be fair across the board and not every person is going to be happy with whatever solutions are implemented. Sometimes you just have to lump it. Or leave.

The second is that none of this addresses the real problems we face, which is too many cars in Forest Hills and all over NYC. Too much pollution. Too much congestion everywhere, and not just central Manhattan. Too much of all of this because the true solutions to such problems are unthinkable in a society that places consumerism and personal convenience above everything else. (And if it sounds like I’m invoking a bigger picture, and a bigger map, it’s because I am). We can’t afford to just lump this.

To paraphrase an earlier Splitting Hairs post: people who live here (Forest Hills yes, but also congested places like Jackson Heights and Flushing) should make it their business to get knowledgeable fast on this subject.


Entry filed under: community, congestion pricing, environment, Forest Hills, timely topic.

Topaz—A Gem Chanukah Happenings I

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Todd G.  |  November 30, 2007 at 11:22 am

    Thank you for this informative post. We have linked to it from the new Jackson Heights community forum, I encourage you to let us know if you have any future posts on this topic.

    Also, are you aware of anybody who has blogged or reported on any of the other DOT hearings on this topic?

  • 2. karbeth  |  November 30, 2007 at 11:35 am

    Thanks for the comment, Todd. I’ll add you guys to my blogroll, as Jackson Heights is on my daily radar too. I’ll have more posts on this soon and will let you know about them.

    So far, I have found little on the blogs about this. I checked ot see if anyone had blogged after the LIC workshop in mid-November, but found nothing. Foresthill72 is all over this one too, so check his site (he said he was going to last night’s meeting so I’m sure he’ll have his report up soon enough).

  • 3. Anne  |  December 3, 2007 at 11:03 am

    First, thanks for attending the meeting and quickly providing a synopsis for the rest of us. Since I do not own a car, frankly I did not pay that much attention to this topic. I assumed that it began and ended with cars going into Manhattan paying a lot more, which I did not think was a terrible thing.

    I did not realize that certain neighborhoods like ours would be targeted for park n’ riders and that residents might have to get permits and pay for them, etc. With all of the twists and all of the issues that need to be considered, I don’t see how this is likely to ever be implemented, but just in case it can happen, you are right that we should all get up to speed on this issue.

    Of equal import is your point about too much and too many, consumerism and convenience. Perhaps we can look to the rental car companies to make short-term rentals cheaper and more convenient as a way of reducing the need and number of residental cars.

  • 4. Idetrorce  |  December 16, 2007 at 12:07 am

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

  • 5. Next PlaNYC Workshop « Splitting Hairs in Forest Hills  |  January 23, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    […] Click here for my report on the first Forest Hills workshop back in November. Despite what others are saying, it’s our right and duty to be at these things and to let our opinions be part of the process. And despite what still others are saying, I am all for congestion pricing as a way to clean things up. That has to be the top priority, and not sticking it to the wealthy folks of Manhattan. Queens residents and pols just need to keep at it to make sure that the cost for making this happen is shared by everyone. […]


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