Opinion, Congestion Pricing Explained

The proposal is that to reduce traffic congestion in Manhattan a fee will be charged to discourage people from driving in. Green is good so this proposed law is being pushed as an environmental issue.

The privilege of driving into Manhattan will cost eight dollars a day. Rather than pay this fee you are supposed to use public transportation. Less people will drive into the city and air quality will improve. Those who do drive in will face less traffic. Enforcement will be managed by thousands of cameras which will have the collateral effect of being a boon to law enforcement. To make it even more attractive the Feds will give us oodles of money to set the system up. Life will become instantly wonderful.

Actually this is a tax on commuters and a hefty one at that. For the average working stiff this tax load will amount to $40 a week or $2,000 a year. Estimates are that this levy will bring in FOUR HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS a year to the city’s coffers. We are already the highest taxed state in the union and this will add a huge load to our burden. Most economists think that this is a regressive tax whose burden falls on the lower end of the economic order. As every one of us knows, the city spends our money wisely and frugally. Since you do not live and vote in the city you have no say in the matter. The injustice of taxation without representation is an idea whose time has passed.

So use mass transit. The MTA is about to raise fares again, this despite a $900,000,000 surplus and record levels of riders. The system is running at 100% capacity now, so cramming more riders in should make it a real pleasure to use. Expanding the system will cost big bucks and there is only one project in play, the Second Avenue line. That will help if you live on the Upper East Side. If you are reading this, you don’t. As a commuter myself, I have found that using mass transit costs more and takes longer, so go figure.

Then there are the cameras. In London there are thousands of cameras enforcing the law. That includes traffic laws. According to the Wall Street Journal, about a third of the drivers in that city are one ticket away from losing their licenses. That has done more to reduce traffic than anything else. These can also double the cost of your car insurance. Add in the cost of the fines and you are really paying big bucks. A seatbelt violation goes for ninety dollars so imagine the cost of a couple of tickets. A burnt out light bulb becomes making an unsafe turn by not signaling, costing $150 plus points. Then there is the speed limit. The enforcement computer sees that you are going over the limit, you get a ticket. The whole system is automated so there can be no arguing or leeway for one mile over. The ticket comes in the mail and you pay.

Trucks will get hit harder at $16 a day. The cost will be passed on to consumers who buy the goods the trucks bring in. That additional cost will be subject to sales tax so you will pay even more than you think. Yellow cabs are exempt from this system because the eleven thousand of them that are on the road at any given point are wonderful, courteous drivers who might actually speak English. The City Council, many of whom receive hefty campaign contributions from the cab industry, feels that this is just neat. But livery cabs and jitneys are not exempt. Then again they do not have a trade organization that contributes to politicians.

The net return of this scheme, aside from generating a ton of taxes, will be an immediate reduction of traffic by about eight percent. The air will be cleaner in the city but the power, with its attendant pollution, to run mass transit is generated elsewhere. The power grid is already overburdened and on the verge of crashing. Long transmission lines mean that a hefty chunk of voltage will be lost moving it around. I also should mention that the Mayor of the city has decided that no more new power plants are to be built in the city.

The only hope is that the State will not allow this scheme to be implemented. That is why we have a Senate and Assembly. Write to them letting them know how you feel.

The mayor of New York City, along with some city politicians, have said that if you don’t like it, move somewhere else. That is the only thing that makes sense about this plan.

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About the Author: Bob Enrione