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Support for a wonky transit tax is a great sign that cars are going out of style



heavy traffic new york

How do you get people to use cars less? Try making driving more expensive.

Support for congestion pricing, a tax designed to mitigate traffic by charging motorists to enter crowded zones, is at a historic high in New York, according to a recent poll from Siena College of 805 registered New York state voters. Statewide, New Yorkers support a congestion pricing plan to reduce traffic and pay for subway improvements by a 52%-to-39% margin.

Support for congestion pricing outweighs opposition across almost every demographic—liberals, moderates, New York City, suburban households, upstate, white, black, latino, every age group, every religion, every income level. Only conservatives and, interestingly, union households are more likely to oppose the measure than to support it. Support for the tax was particularly strong among black (64%) and latino (57%) respondents, as well as among people ages 18 to 34 (63%) and people in the lowest income bracket, less than $50,000 (60%).

Only about 10% of voters hadn’t heard of congestion pricing or had no opinion on it, setting up New York state governor Andrew Cuomo nicely to propose a congestion pricing plan in his 2019 “State of the State” and budget address this afternoon (Jan. 15). Cuomo proposed a fee to enter Manhattan south of 60th Street. The fee, Cuomo said, would create “toll equity” by ensuring drivers paid to enter the busiest part of Manhattan, regardless of where they came in. The exception would be for drivers traveling along the FDR Drive, on the east side of the city, to go north or south in Manhattan.

Here is a quality screenshot of Cuomo talking about the plan while closing his eyes and making a face:
Vehicle speeds in the New York’s central business district have been dropping since 2010, most recently to 7.2 miles per hour (pdf). Cuomo’s office pointed to “remarkable growth of for-hire vehicles in New York City”—here’s looking at you, Uber—plus new bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, deliveries, and tour buses. Construction, of course, also factors in. Uber policy manager Josh Gold said in a statement following Cuomo’s address that the company supports congestion pricing for “all users of Manhattan’s congested roads.”

A mini-congestion surcharge on for-hire rides in Manhattan south of 96th Street was supposed to take effect in January, but remains on hold after cab drivers sued. That plan would add $2.50 to taxi rides, $2.75 to other black car trips and private rides booked through an app, and $0.75 for shared ride-hails, like UberPool or Via. Shared rides, in other words, get a big break.

Cuomo’s congestion pricing plan would apply to all vehicles and is projected to raise $15 billion, but it wouldn’t take effect until 2021, which seems like an awfully long time when measured in minutes-spent-waiting-on-a-stalled-subway-car. That $15 billion also represents only a quarter of the estimated $60 billion needed to rehab the city’s subway system, and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio remains opposed to Cuomo’s plan for the city to split the cost of a shortfall 50-50. “If anyone thinks that money can be found in the city budget, they may be smoking marijuana,” de Blasio said yesterday—something else that could soon be legal in New York, if Cuomo gets his way.

Congestion pricing is popular among transit wonks, but historically has been politically unviable in New York and the rest of the US. Vehicle owners understandably chafe at the idea of having to pay even more money to get where they need to go, particularly if the toll is getting tacked onto a regular commute to work. A congestion plan proposed by former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg in 2007 met a quick death in Albany.

But congestion pricing works in cities that have implemented it, such as London and Stockholm. Vehicle speeds rise, and congestion and carbon emissions fall. “If you survive this valley of political death, and people actually see the benefits, and also realize that, in addition to the benefits, it’s actually not as bad as you thought—it’s not so hard adapting to this—then support starts going up again,” Jonas Eliasson, Stockholm’s director of transportation, told Curbed in March 2018.

Despite the support in New York, enacting congestion pricing remains an uphill battle. But it’s a far more achievable and implementable fix to a city’s traffic woes than waiting around for a hyperloop, or fully autonomous driverless cars, or flying taxis, or any of the more fantastical solutions being worked on in Silicon Valley. Those moonshots may happen one day. But in the meantime, congestion pricing can hasten the car’s exit from the American lifestyle.


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9-year-old genius to graduate university




Laurent Simons

(CNN) – A child prodigy from Belgium is on course to gain a bachelor’s degree at the tender age of 9.

Laurent Simons is studying electrical engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) — a tough course even for students of an average graduate age.

Described by staff as “simply extraordinary,” Laurent is on course to finish his degree in December.

He then plans to embark on a PhD program in electrical engineering while also studying for a medicine degree, his father told CNN.

His parents, Lydia and Alexander Simons, said they thought Laurent’s grandparents were exaggerating when they said he had a gift, but his teachers soon concurred.

“They noticed something very special about Laurent,” said Lydia.

Laurent was given test after test as teachers tried to work out the extent of his talents. “They told us he is like a sponge,” said Alexander.

While Laurent comes from a family of doctors, his parents have so far not received any explanation as to why their child prodigy is capable of learning so quickly.

But Lydia has her own theory.

“I ate a lot of fish during the pregnancy,” she joked.

The TUE has allowed Laurent to complete his course faster than other students.

“That is not unusual,” said Sjoerd Hulshof, education director of the TUE bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, in a statement.

“Special students that have good reasons for doing so can arrange an adjusted schedule. In much the same way we help students who participate in top sport.”

Hulshof said Laurent is “simply extraordinary” and praised the youngster.

“Laurent is the fastest student we have ever had here,” he said. “Not only is he hyper intelligent but also a very sympathetic boy.”

Laurent told CNN his favorite subject is electrical engineering and he’s also “going to study a bit of medicine.”

His progress has not gone unnoticed and he is already being sought out by prestigious universities around the world, although Laurent’s family wouldn’t be drawn on naming which of them he is considering for his PhD.

“The absorption of information is no problem for Laurent,” said his father.

“I think the focus will be on research and applying the knowledge to discover new things.”

While Laurent is evidently able to learn faster than most, his parents are being careful to let him enjoy himself too.

“We don’t want him to get too serious. He does whatever he likes,” said Alexander. “We need to find a balance between being a child and his talents.”

Laurent said he enjoys playing with his dog Sammy and playing on his phone, like many young people.

However, unlike most 9-year-olds, he has already worked out what he wants to do with his life: develop artificial organs.

In the meantime, Laurent has to finish his bachelor’s degree and choose which academic institution will play host to the next stage in his remarkable journey.

Before that, he plans on taking a vacation to Japan for an undoubtedly well-deserved break.

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New award to honor arts and activism named after Lena Horne




Lena Horne

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Gang members slam BMW into rival and his 8-year-old son in Harlem




Gang members slam BMW into rival and his 8-year-old son in Harlem

Two gangbangers aimed their BMW like a missile at a father and his 8-year-old son on a Harlem sidewalk in a horrifying incident captured by video distributed by police Thursday.

The BMW — driven by a man police believe is a member of the Gorilla Stone Bloods Gang — was zeroed in on the father, a rival gang member, said cops.

Around 3:45 p.m. Nov. 6, the boy and his father were walking on W. 112th St. by Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. when the BMW jumped the sidewalk and slammed into them both, said cops.

Father and son were both knocked through a gate.

The BMW driver then backed up — and its driver and passenger, also believed to be a gang member, jumped out of the car and ran toward the father and the son.

One of the attackers slashed the father, identified by sources as 32-year-old Brian McIntosh, who’s served prison time for robbery and bail jumping.

McIntosh and his son went to Harlem Hospital. Miraculously, the boy escaped serious harm.

McIntosh was so adamant about refusing to help police catch his attackers that the young boy’s mother had to file a police report alleging he was the victim of a crime, police sources said.

Cops released video of the attack, and ask anyone with information about the suspects to call Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS.


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