Home Congestion Fee NY Assembly proposes $.50 rush-hour subway fare to combat congestion pricing

NY Assembly proposes $.50 rush-hour subway fare to combat congestion pricing

by Benjamin Kabak

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.

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wayne's world June 14, 2007 - 11:35 am

I do like the idea of charging a premium at tolls during rush hours. It would be a nice supplement to the congestion fee. While it’s true that some traffic would shift to the less busy hours, I also think that some drivers who do not have that flexibility would not drive at all.

The Real Alex June 14, 2007 - 1:25 pm

The answer is where the lines cross.

Streetsblog » Assembly Considers Bankrupting MTA to Reduce Congestion June 14, 2007 - 2:54 pm

[…] WCBS-TV via Second Ave. Sagas:The pressure has been mounting on the legislature to pass the mayor’s [congestion pricing] […]

Gary June 14, 2007 - 3:43 pm

That is among the worst ideas I’ve ever heard. People have been waiting weeks for THAT?

I favor reducing subway fares across the board as good public policy – get people off the roads, and fund transit for all the societal benefits it offers.

The fare hike from $1 to $2 was essentially a regressive tax hike, and a hike to $3 would be even worse. I think the mention of a $3 fare was mere saber-rattling to get people on board with congestion pricing / knock out the false “regressive tax” argument by the CP foes.

I believe IRUM is working on a study on the effects of eliminating fares altogether, which will be interesting.

Marc Shepherd June 15, 2007 - 8:25 am

You could definitely make an argument that subsidized subway fares are in the public interest. But based on past experience, it’s likely that government would not truly subsidize the subway enough to maintain a state of good repair. We would see a return to the days when there was only minimal maintenance, and the system was near collapse.

The other problem is that, while you can lower the rush-hour fare from $2.00 to $0.50 with the stroke of a pen, you cannot so easily build the capacity needed to handle all of the extra passengers that the lower fare would attract.

Subway Congestion Fare: 50 Cents : SUBWAYblogger.com: Blog from the New York Subway June 17, 2007 - 8:19 pm

[…] so this proposal was announced last week, and…well…I needed a few days to ponder my reaction. No matter how hard I thought about […]

Benjamin June 19, 2007 - 3:09 pm

How do we know (a) that the $8/$21 congestion pricing revenue will actually be dedicated to mass transit improvements, and (b) that this revenue will actually be sufficient for mass transit improvements? So far, the only thing I hear or read is vague promises by Bloomberg, who is not even going to be running for reelection as mayor.

Stinky Wizzerteets June 22, 2007 - 7:07 pm

While I agree Sheldon Silver is a complete scumbag (and please for the love of baby jesus pass congestion pricing), I am of the opinion the subway should be 100% free. I won’t bore you with my argument why – This is a classic textbook economist question. Btw, free works for the staten island ferry.


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