We Can’t Have Nice Things

25 Feb

A change that Florida has made to one of its toll roads.

See that?

The people with a toll transponder stay on the main highway lanes at highway speeds, while people who have to pay cash pull over to the side and enjoy their wait.

New York State Thruway failure of an Authority, why the hell can’t we have that? If you’re going to make me pay almost $30 to drive to Yonkers, at least let me fly through the damn tolls.

Want to talk about Buffalo being branded as fun or innovative or historical or a place with great wings? How about just a basic competence?* If we had just that, we’d be one step ahead and worrying about how to brand this place would be significantly easier.

We can’t have dessert until after we’ve finished our meal. Buffalo hasn’t even ordered yet.

*I realize that this sounds like I’m bashing Brian’s post, but I’m not. I’m just saying that none of that branding stuff matters if we can’t do really simple, basic things properly.

25 Responses to “We Can’t Have Nice Things”

  1. Pauldub February 25, 2010 at 9:40 pm #

    What the hell does this have to do with branding Buffalo? You can get by without paying tribute to the NYSTA.

    • Alan Bedenko February 26, 2010 at 6:14 am #

      The NYSTA is merely a lazy and angry example of ineptitude.  Here’s another example – the City of Buffalo is an utter failure at plowing its roads in a snowstorm.  I’ll guarantee you that downtown will be a mess of a disaster today on any side street.  We can’t get the basics right.  How about we start with that, then we worry about whether we have good wings or great architecture. 

  2. Fast Lane in MA? Not so fast.... February 26, 2010 at 12:52 am #

    Hey Alan, it should be noted here in MA that not even all the toll booths have EZ Pass – just a few. I always think of the NY Thurway toll booths when I’m waiting in line in an Fast Lane on the Pike…

  3. RvrSide February 26, 2010 at 6:50 am #

    Florida isnt the only state with this. Also, consider HWY 407 (private hwy in Canada) that reads plates and Easy Pass (type) signals at 150 mph.

  4. Mark February 26, 2010 at 8:30 am #

    They have at least one of these in NJ.

    • Jon March 2, 2010 at 3:49 pm #

      They have a lot of these in NJ. It’s EZ-Pass the way its supposed to be.

  5. Brian Castner February 26, 2010 at 9:02 am #

    No offense taken. I do disagree with you though. Every city has small simple things that they “should” be able to do right, but can’t. NYC, Baltimore, and DC had to ask Buffalo for advice on their recent snow storms. Do you know a single NYer from the city who doesn’t constantly complain about subways, or bridges, or schedules, or something? And it wasn’t that long ago that on the loop around Chicago there were no EZ Pass lanes, and every commuter carried a giant pile of coins everywhere. Doesn’t seem to affect any of their brands. And anyway – that’s the great thing about brands. They are only loosely based in reailty. But I think if Buffalo believed in a new brand, our reality would change from it.

  6. Kallie February 26, 2010 at 10:17 am #

    Really? This complaint is ridiculous. If you (and many other people) focused more energy on sharing the great things that NY and Buffalo have to offer and less time finding fault in small, insignificant details, the ‘rebranding’ of Buffalo would be that much easier. Quit whining and start spreading a positive message. I’m new to Buffalo; I think its a great city and tell that to anybody that will listen. Brian is right: ‘if Buffalo believed in a new brand, our reality would change from it.’ So true.

    • Marc Odien February 26, 2010 at 10:47 am #

      I know someone that will let you borrow their rose colored glasses. He’ll be down in the Ice maze all weekend 🙂

    • Hey Pockyway February 26, 2010 at 11:12 am #

      You may be on the wrong site. The subject matter here is, almost universally, negative

      • Kallie February 26, 2010 at 11:33 am #

        Marc – I’ll be sporting my own rose colored glasses and a glass half-full – of Flying Bison, of course. 🙂

        Pockyway – Have you found a positive Buffalo site? If so, please send a link. Thanks!

      • Brian Castner February 26, 2010 at 12:05 pm #

        ^^^ That’s hilarious.

      • Marc Odien February 26, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

        oh, come on… We’re not that bad 🙂

    • Alan Bedenko February 26, 2010 at 11:40 am #

      If the city worked on the fundamentals that make residents happy and prospective residents want to come, then the “branding” thing would work itself out.

      It doesn’t matter if you brand celery as “no-name celery” versus “Super-Happy Fun Awesome Celery of Cool”. It’s still celery, and it still tastes like shit.

      If the city’s schools didn’t generally suck, then the branding question would be simpler. If the city wasn’t doling out hundreds of thousands of dollars to enable the inept and inexperienced to open a restaurant that folds within months, branding would be simpler. If the city didn’t spend block grant money that is supposed to help poor neighborhoods on Blackberries for top aides, branding would be simpler.

      Branding is all well and good, but a brand name will catch someone’s attention for a moment. Once any real due diligence takes place, problems become more evident.

      • Brian Castner February 26, 2010 at 12:04 pm #

        See, you think brands have some link to reality. I don’t. I think the impression and reputation is divorced from reality, because almost no one does the due diligence you speak of. So yes – Awesome Celery of Cool might work. And I don’t think Buffalo’s brand is influenced by minutia like blackberries and failed restaurants any more than GM’s brand is influenced by whether the radio knobs feel plasticy or not. You notice such things. The American public does not.

      • Kallie February 26, 2010 at 12:04 pm #

        I completely agree with many of the arguements you have to make this city better. However, in this article you do not mention the fundamental problems that you have listed above; you complain about waiting for five minutes on the thru-way. If you want to write a thought-provoking article on the ways that the city could be improved that stimulates the process of improvement in a positive way, you may find a more receptive audience.
        On a side note, I rather enjoy celery, so please stop bashing that, too. 🙂

      • Alan Bedenko February 26, 2010 at 1:41 pm #

        Kallie, with respect, I’ve been writing stuff that’s thought-provoking about this sort of thing for about 5 years. Once in a while, I have to rant. There is so much rank failure around here, and this was just one example of it. The problem is that we accept it, become cynical, and move on with “well, it beats Detroit!”. Or with ice mazes. Or whatever other salve we can apply to the festering boil of failure. I agree, Brian, that branding does matter. If I had the scratch, I’d start a company to manufacture snow tires (Buffalo tested, Buffalo approved). We should capitalize on our weaknesses like the weather and turn them into strengths, and we should let our good points be more widely known too.
        But in the end, Antoine Thompson and Dale Volker remain state senators, Byron Brown and Steve Casey remain co-mayors, etc. ad infinitum.

      • Kallie February 26, 2010 at 3:09 pm #

        I’m new, Alan, so I apologize for not doing my homework before critiquing your work and I look forward to reading your more thought-provoking pieces. But I am disappointed in that response. You’ve contradicted yourself. You say “We should capitalize on on our weaknesses like the weather and turn them into strengths,” yet you call the ice maze (and the festival in general?) “salve we can apply to the festering boil of failure.” This weekend is an attempt to make winter weather in Buffalo part of its appeal for visitors and residents alike. Part of the branding that you agree matters. You say “The problem is that we accept [failure], become cynical, and move on” – I agree this is a problem. We should not feel that failure is the only option for Buffalo. “But in the end, Antoine Thompson and Dale Volker remain state senators, Byron Brown and Steve Casey remain co-mayors, etc. ad infinitum” – sounds a little cynical and complacent with these failures to me.

      • Brian Castner February 26, 2010 at 4:11 pm #

        Alan – Volker and Thompson aren’t the root of the problem. The problem is the culture and thinking of Buffalonians that elected them. As long as the culture here stays the same, Volker, Thompson, and their replacement clones will continue, as they have for 50 years. Volker and Thompson accurately reflect the will, priorities, and standards of their constituents. That’s why I’ve moved to a culture/brand (i’m using those terms interchangably here) stance – change the culture to change the politicians/jobs/FAIL.

      • The Answer Lady February 26, 2010 at 6:23 pm #

        Have to really agree with you on this one, pundit. It sounds absolutely demented to me to have people worrying about our image when there are ten of thousands unemployed, failing schools, a broken 911 system, a police department so overworked they gave up even trying to investigate burglaries (and armed robberies too apparently), decrepit boarded up housing everywhere except the few areas that still matter.

        Oh yeah, and that winter weather we’re celebrating this weekend has thousands of our poorer neighbors standing in line for home heating assistance.

      • Kallie February 26, 2010 at 7:21 pm #

        With that logic, AL, should we be mad at Vancouver for hosting some silly winter games while nearly 3000 people sit homeless on their streets (http://www.metrovancouver.org/planning/homelessness/Pages/default.aspx)? Social injustice is terrible, I won’t argue with that. But doesn’t it make more sense to be constructive instead of critical? Maybe next year have a booth or tent that raises awareness and/or funds for the people of Buffalo that need heating assistance. I would gladly volunteer for a few hours, or even a whole day, to help out a worthy cause. Regarding the other issues you brought up – I agree that those are weaknesses Buffalo needs to overcome. I don’t claim to have answers for those issues. But if, through branding, more people see Buffalo as a desirable location, maybe they will decide to move into a ‘fixer-upper’ and restore it to its original glory. Or if someone has more pride in their town, maybe they’ll decide to give back and join a mentoring program or Buffalo ReUse or any number of volunteering programs available. I know I’m blindly optimistic, but I think its more fun to think of possible solutions than to merely list flaws.

      • The Answer Lady February 26, 2010 at 9:11 pm #

        The people in Vancouver aren’t too happy about the outcome of their branding experience. The following just for example ( google vancouver olympics billion dollar debt for many more)

        Vancouver is the largest metropolitan area to host a Winter Games but the excitement is being tempered by skyrocketing costs that many fear could leave organizers with a legacy of debt.

        Many Vancouverites are also wondering if British Columbia’s desire to present itself as perfection (its motto being: “The Best Place on Earth”), will mean its “problems”: homelessness and prostitution will be hidden from sight.

      • STEEL February 26, 2010 at 11:52 pm #

        Woah, stop the presses, don’t plan another winter festival until the throughway has up to date toll collecting! As a matter of fact the Allentown, Elmwood, Gardenwalk,Italian and Juneteenth festivals should be canceld this year and the Irish parade too and Shakespear in the Park and Wing Fest and Thursday in the Square and Taste of Buffalo! That one definitely has to go! And stop renovating buildings too. This throughway thing has to be fixed immediately!

  7. Matt February 26, 2010 at 11:31 am #

    It is true that NY could learn a lot from FL’s highway system. In fact, if you pay the toll with cash, you’ll notice the toll workers wearing hawaiian shirts! But at the same time, they do not have to worry about plowing snow and using salt which does a lot of damage to our roadways. Because of that alone their expenses are considerably less.

    I remember years ago the thruway authority was gushing about using high-speed ezpass lanes. What ever happened to that?

    • Alan Bedenko February 26, 2010 at 11:42 am #

      I also noticed that toll booths had ads for car insurance on them in one of those plastic wraps you find on city buses. I have no idea why we can’t supplement the NYSTA’s income with advertising dollars and thus reduce the reliance on toll revenue.

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