When Mayor Bloomberg first announced his congestion pricing plan on Earth Day, I came out in favor of it. I knew at the time that many New York politicians, beholden to auto and oil companies and car-addicted denizens of the outer boroughs, wouldn’t sign on to a plan even though that plan would help the city’s environment and the fiscal state of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. That’s just too much common sense for the New York legislative bodies to stomach.
But Bloomberg enjoys the benefit of public support. When told of the benefits of the congestion pricing plan, a whopping 81 percent of New York residents support Bloomberg’s proposal. The New York State Assembly, however, led by Sheldon Silver (pictured at right), have different ideas, and these ideas are among the worst out there in terms of their impact on our beloved subway system.
Marcia Kramer, CBS’s lead political and investigative correspondent, covered the story today. She breaks down the other proposals set forth by the Assembly:
The first idea would involve dropping the price to ride the bus or subway during rush hour from $2 to 50 cents.
The second idea is to increase bridge and tunnel tolls to $6 between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., as well as 3 p.m. through 7 p.m. Under that plan, tolls would be reduced to just $2 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
These plans are disasters. Let’s start with the one at the top: Reducing the subway fare to $.50 at rush hour is a terrible mistake.
Right now, the MTA draws in on average $1.31 per ride for those who use the Unlimted MetroCard (45 percent), $1.67 per ride for those who use pay-per-ride (45 percent) and $2.00 per ride from the rest. So the average that the MTA takes in per ride is $1.54 more or less. Since ridership is highest at rush hour, the MTA obviously takes in more money at rush hour than it does at other times during the day.
As the point of the congestion fee is to discourage driving while taking in money to improve the city’s infrastructure, it doesn’t make any sense to cut the fare by, in effect, 67 percent at peak times. The MTA would have to triple its ridership just to meet its current fare revenues. And tripling the ridership, besides being impossible, would overwhelm the subway system well beyond the point of collapse.
The toll plan suffers from the same lack of foresight. Tolls are already pretty expensive; a bump to $6 wouldn’t do much. But the rebound — $2 between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. — would simply push more people to drive when tolls are dirt cheap. I’m not even going to mention the even/odd license plate proposal. That solves no problems, and good luck enforcing it.
In the end, none of these proposals approach the subtlety and thoroughness of Mayor Bloomberg’s original idea. With Bloomberg’s $8-per-car or $21-per-truck plan, the millions the city projects to take in would go toward the MTA’s infrastructure. We would enjoy more frequent and reliable subway service, nicer stations and new subway lines fulfilling the promise of a system 100 years in the making. Additionally, with more people riding the subway each day at the current fares, the MTA’s coffers would continue to expand not only through congestion pricing revenue but through fares as well. It’s a win-win situation for the environment and our public transportation system.
With so many people supporting the congestion pricing, the New York Assembly should do the right thing and pass this legislation. Anything else would be a detrimental cope out that would affect the city for generations to come.