Yesterday, Mayor Bloomberg presented his plan for preparing New York City for the future. He outlined 10 ambitious goals that focus on housing and transporting a growing population, improving our infrastructure and improving the environment:

  1. Create homes for almost a
    million more New Yorkers, while
    making housing more affordable
    and sustainable
  2. Improve travel times by adding
    transit capacity for millions more
    residents, visitors, and workers
  3. Ensure that all New Yorkers live
    within a 10-minute walk of a park
  4. Develop critical back-up systems
    for our aging water network to
    ensure long-term reliability
  5. Reach a full “state of good repair”
    on New York City’s roads, subways,
    and rails for the first time in history
  6. Provide cleaner, more reliable power
    for every New Yorker by upgrading
    our energy infrastructure
  7. Reduce global warming
    emissions by more than 30%
  8. Achieve the cleanest air
    of any big city in America
  9. Clean up all contaminated
    land in New York City
  10. Open 90% of our waterways
    for recreation by reducing
    water pollution and preserving
    our natural areas

The City has set up a planNYC website with more information. The site has many opportunities to offer one’s opinion on how to improve things. It also offers a fair amount of information on how citizens can take action.

Congestion and its ill effects are not a new issue in New York City. In the past, when people recognized a problem, they moved to fix it. The subway system is an example of this sort of action. It is doubtful that anyone subjected to the city’s traffic on a daily basis–either as a driver, passenger, cyclist or pedestrian–would deny the existence of intolerable congestion. So we recognize that we have a problem, how does it get fixed?

The “fix” will certainly need to happen on several fronts to be effective. The Partnership for New York City released the the results of their study earlier this month in Growth or Gridlock. This report drives home the economic reasons that transportation improvement must be addressed now. It also highlights some of the ways that New York and other world cities are dealing this this issue. One method of traffic relief that has been used quite successfully elsewhere, and proposed here, is congestion pricing.

In the unabridged version of his aptly titled New York Magazine article “Congestion Charging in New York City: The Political Bloodbath“, Aaron Naparstek revisits some of the history around the issue of congestion pricing. It would seem that, as a city leader, mentioning congestion pricing is the equivalent of political (or actual) suicide. If that is the case, how will congestion pricing ever be implemented or even tested in New York if the city’s leaders are unwilling to get behind it?

Well, it looks as if someone might be stepping up. City councilwoman Gale Brewer is planning to introduce congestion pricing legislation. Perhaps with this sort of legislation in council, the mayor will stop denying that this is a piece of the traffic relief puzzle. A transportation plan that does not address the overabundance of private automobiles in our most congested areas is not dealing with a major part of the problem. Let’s hope that Mayor Bloomberg takes advantage of his high approval ratings to start making these changes.

Dan Gillmor ponders whether recent gasoline price increases are price gouging or the marketplace:

There’s also a lot of talk about price gouging. One of the people talking this way is California’s attorney general, who’s investigating.

Well, there’s another way to describe this behavior. It’s called charging what the market will bear.

And it’s the one thing that — despite any scheming that may be going on in the energy industry — will prevent us from seeing long gas lines in the next several weeks and months.

This is basic supply and demand. The latter is high. The former is constrained.

Although there is probably some gouging going on, especially in the hurricane ravaged areas of the south, I tend to agree with Dan on this in that additional state regulation is probably not the best answer. For the most part, this is a natural market reaction and we should probably let the market seek its own price. The recent price increases are likely to subside as the distribution infrastructure around the Gulf is repaired. However, lower prices will be a temporary situation, in the long term prices will continue to increase.

Unfortunately, higher fuel prices are going to affect many people adversely who are deeply dependent on fuel that they simply can no longer afford. Doing without is not an option for most in this country since driving several miles to just about anything is the norm. In the short term, those who can’t afford the price increases will probably plunge deeper into consumer debt as they finance their fuel consumption with high interest funds from credit cards. As this happens, people will become more and more infuriated and begin to look for someone to blame and/or somewhere to point the finger.

Regardless of where the finger is pointed now or in the future, I think it is time for ALL of us to consider ways we can conserve energy and reduce waste in any way we can. Whether we drive a car regularly or not, we are all dependent on oil and other non-renewable energy sources in one way or another. So, we are all in this together. Even the smallest of personal actions can have a big impact when we all act together.

Here are some ideas for conserving energy in no particular order. Some can be done in the short term, but their impact will really be felt in the longer term, especially if more people start thinking about these things:

  • If you own a car, try to find alternatives to driving when you can. Walking or riding a bicycle are both viable (and enjoyable) alternatives in many cases. If you must drive, try to car pool and drive efficiently.
  • If you are driving a gas guzzler, think about trading down to something more fuel efficient. If you are in the market for a new vehicle, look for fuel efficiency. If you want to be somewhat radical: Will a motorcycle fit your needs? Even more radical: Can you ditch your car altogether, maybe you can relocate to somewhere where you don’t need a car. If you only need a car once in a while, think about something like zipcar or Flexcar.
  • See if you can purchase Green Power for your home or office.
  • Take taxis only when you need to, get there under your own power or with public transit if you can.
  • Turn things off (lights, computers, radios, televisions) when you are not using them and adjust your thermostat. more at ConEd
  • When purchasing new electrical devices, look for the Energy Star label.

What are some of the things you do to conserve energy?