Though over the years plenty of New York City’s mayoral candidates have run, and often won, on promises do a little here and there to reduce traffic, no one has ever staked their candidacy on a sweeping plan to curtail auto-mobile use and open streets to more walking and bicycling.
Until a few years ago, this was more or less true for every city in the world. Then candidates in cities like London, Paris, Copenhagen and Bogotá hit political pay dirt by taking major steps to restrict driving and give streets over to pedestrians and bicyclists.
“But this could never work in New York,” retorts conventional wisdom. Here many elected officials and mayoral hopefuls seem to believe it is better to pander to drivers than to risk peeving them off. Fernando Ferrer’s recent high-profile bid to give Sunday drivers free parking seemed to make headlines faster than any proposals to overhaul the city’s education system. In the complex equation of New York City politics, drivers matter. Or so it would seem.
Mayoral hopefuls take notice–key factors in the equation of New York City transportation politics have changed. Today, for reasons ranging from the increasing price of gas to the increasing awareness that car-choked streets are making us unhealthy and unhappy, the majority of New Yorkers now value greenways more than highways, and parks more than parking.
No candidate for Mayor of New York City ever ran on platform to rein in the automobile.
It is high time for someone to do just that.
Paul Steely White
P.S. If you doubt that a car-free platform can work in New York City the following quiz may change your mind. Get answers by following this link.
Quiz for Mayoral Hopefuls: Do You Know Your Electorate?
1. Which of the following cities has the lowest car ownership per capita?
2. After decades of steady growth, from 2000 to 2004 car ownership in Brooklyn and Queens decreased by what percentage?
3. A 2004 Baruch College Poll identified the top concern of community leaders throughout the five boroughs as:
4. From 2000 to 2004 bicycle trips over the East River bridges increased by what percentage?
5. Approximately how many New Yorkers have signed the petition to make Central Park’s loop drive completely car-free?
6. According to a Quinnipiac University poll, which of the following budget balancing strategies is preferred by City residents by almost 2 to 1 over tax increases and transit fare hikes?