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Coke and Hookers, Very Nice. Now Let's Discuss Congestion Pricing.

03/25/2008 02:47 pm 14:47:23 | Updated May 25, 2011

So when David Paterson gets unexpectedly thrust into office, the first thing he does is talk about all the extramarital sex he's had and the second thing he does is mention that he's done coke. This is brilliant -- get past it and exhibit candor while everyone's still gasping from Spitzer's deceit. All politicians should do something like this -- call it a vaccination against future scandals.

So now that that's out of the way and chatter about Spitzer's hooker is beginning to fade, let's talk about something that matters -- will he push hard to get Albany to support Mike Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan for Manhattan? (PDF here; html here.) As far as traffic goes, the lower half of the island is sick and it's going to get sicker. Have you been to Times Square on a hot August day in this decade? It feels like being inside a grizzly bear's mouth.

The vehicular armada that passes through the city, clogging up the streets and thickening the air, is like a slow heart attack happening. Bloomberg, a pragmatist to the core, recognized the problem and presented a solution. That anyone opposes such a plan, or some form of it, truly puzzles me -- do they think there's no problem?

It is demonstrably true that such plans work. London and Stockholm had similar problems and implemented congestion pricing plans; London saw 30% traffic delay reductions, Stockholm had 22%. Both cities had significant retail trade increases. Neither city experienced any major negative side effects, and although the plans met stiff resistence at first, they now have wide popular support -- kind of like NYC's smoking ban.

Bloomberg's plan is reasonable and necessary, and Paterson should fight hard for it. He already announced that he would support it. Now he needs to marshall whatever resources he has in the friends/favors purse and exert pressure on Sheldon Silver and other dissenters to approve it so that the plan becomes a reality sooner rather than later or not at all. If Paterson can pull that off, it would be a major coup -- and it would demonstrate that he has the subtlety and diplomatic intelligence that Eliot Spitzer lacked.

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