2008-04-18 / Editorial/Opinion

It's My Turn

By David Lichtenthal Resident, Arverne By The Sea

David Lichtenthal is a new resident of the Arverne By The Sea development. His concern for Rockaway issues, and particularly transportation, sparked this column, although the Congestion Pricing Plan was defeated in the State Legislature last week.

Congestion pricing has been trying to enter our urban lexicon. Better use of waterways periodically floats to the surface in a viable manner while air traffic volume is seemingly out of control. Recurring assessments of mass transit fares and bridge tolls, are perhaps, inevitable.

This time, there should be a pause in the ever-escalating prices we pay to get around. The issues we will continue to face have more to do with making better use of existing capacity, than garnering resources for more infrastructure and equipment. It is not a supply side problem so much anymore. And, price increases for these resources have minimal impact on demand as is hoped for congestion pricing. We are starting to reach ultimate capacity - that is, the physical limits of surface, rail and air transportation resources.

There is an upper limit to the number of trains that can be in the tube or on the rail, and the number of cars that can be on the road or planes that can be in the sky. Comfortable and safe distances for all modes of transportation are giving way to major discomfort and, even the potential for disaster. Simply put, we are starting to run out of space! So what's our region going to do ?

Curtailing crush hour is part of the solution. We can view the workday and associated commute in a new and creative way. Staggered starting times for the work force would alter the pattern of demand for these resources in the tri-state region. Extend the concepts of "peak", "off peak"and "flex-time" through adding five generally accepted starting times for our workday - say 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 a.m. with corresponding times to go home. Both the "early birds" and "night owls" among us would rejoice.

More than fifty years ago, people needed to get to work at about the same time and, for the most part, all in one place to make a particular "widget." Not so much anymore. We are now in a truly global economy - firms whose markets and operations are dispersed around the world. Staff and line coverage is needed for serving customers across many time zones, to synchronize globally based sourcing and distribution networks as well as coordinate most managerial functions that are often inherently multinational these days. For awhile now, working "9 to 5" has given way to "24 / 7". And, the burgeoning technology and service sectors continue to require this type of human support.

When we get to work has got to change, since charging more has no real effect on the volume of traffic in any arena!

A business culture that includes the pattern above and variant forms, would reduce some of the overcrowding in our transportation networks if slowly adopted, in part or whole, by most firms and organizations. This approach will also result in making better use of our free time. The hours devoted to life maintenance including shopping for what we need, and enjoying recreational resources to mention only a few, will likely become easier.

Accessing those now often overcrowded outlets during a few free hours, gives way to access across a much wider time frame. You can almost hear retailers and, their customers breathe a sigh of relief. There would likely be less time stuck in transit or, in traffic too. Most of all, we would have a chance to arrive at work without the commute diminishing our vitality as it so often regrettably does now.

Employers would gain employees who are fresher and likely more productive while almost everyone gets a better quality of life.

For now, let us say "Fare enough"!

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