As transit advocates and State Senators have a chance to digest the latest MTA funding plan, two questions have continued to pop up: Does this latest plan have a chance to pass the Senate? Does it accomplish what it needs to accomplish?
Unfortunately for transit advocates, these two questions often lead to different answers. We want to see a solid commitment to mass transit; we want to see measures to return the streets to pedestrians and transit; we want to discourage the car-owning minority in New York City from unnecessary driving.
In answer to the question of support among advocates, Ben Fried at Streetsblog comes down firmly on the side of no. He outlines his five reasons why this plan doesn’t do what it should:
- Raising tolls on MTA crossings while keeping East and Harlem River bridges free gives car commuters and truckers even more incentive to detour across city streets to the free crossings. Neighborhoods like Downtown Brooklyn, Long Island City, Williamsburg and the Lower East Side that are already pulverized by traffic will see things get worse.
- Raising fees on car ownership through higher registration and licensing fees does nothing to discourage car use, and may actually encourage people to drive more in order to get more bang for their buck. Using tolls or congestion fees to price driving would have the opposite effect.
- Raising the cost of car sharing, rentals and taxis makes it tougher to live without a car. And, like higher ownership fees, increasing these one-time charges encourages renters to maximize their driving. Congestion pricing or tolls are far superior.
- Unlike private motorists taxi drivers faced with higher fees will increase their driving. Why? Since passengers will choose to ride less, given the higher fare, cabbies will have to drive more to recoup the flat fee they pay to operate a taxi.
- Using cab fees to pay for highway and bridge projects outside of the city transfers wealth from the dense, environmentally sustainable city to the car-dependent suburbs. If anything, taxes on cabs should fund the city bridges and streets used by those cabs.
There’s not much left to add to Fried’s analysis. He hits all the key issues and the complaints that I’ve had with the plan — poorly thought-out licensing fees, encouraging driving — are reflected in Fried’s word.
So then if we’re going to settle for a less-than-stellar pro-transit funding plan, does it have the political support to pass muster in the Senate? The answer is maybe, according to Elizabeth Benjamin.
If the Senate Democrats were hoping to capture support among the city’s Republican senators with their latest MTA bailout plan, the early returns are not promising, the DN’s Glenn Blain reports.
Of the three, only Sen. Frank Padavan of Queens seemed open to supporting the plan. Brooklyn Sen. Martin Golden and Staten Island Sen. Andrew Lanza both said they haven’t yet had the opportunity to review the new plan in detail (as of last night, it existed only in the form of a concept and had not yet been drafted into a bill).
But upon hearing the details as they were presented to reporters by the Senate Democrats’ spokesman Austin Shafran, both Golden and Lanza expressed misgivings about the proposal – especially its reliance on a payroll tax. “I just don’t see how I could vote for that type of a tax increase again into the city of New York after what they’ve already done with the tax increase in this budget,” Golden said Monday night.
That’s not a positive prognosis for the bill really. It doesn’t really line up with what transit advocates want, and it doesn’t seem have to the support it may need. Once again, the State Senate has seemingly failed to deliver, and even if this bill passes, it’s tough to say that it addresses the MTA’s long-term funding needs. Where is the political will when we need it most?