Gov. Cuomo’s budget director Robert Mujica was blowing lots of smoke at us in his letter hailing the passage of congestion pricing (Letters, April 17-23).
Far from being a “monumental advancement” as he calls it, the tolling on Manhattan streets will be a deadweight on the city’s economy and ultimately Long Island’s. The scheme will be grossly unfair to Long Islanders who often need to drive because they have no good alternative to get to the city for work, for medical treatment, or to care for an ailing relative.
Mujica says this will “ensure funding for mass transit” to the tune of $1 billion a year while reducing congestion. Don’t believe it.
Several broad-based taxes have been dedicated to the MTA for decades. Employers, including school districts, from Orange and Dutchess Counties to Montauk pay a payroll tax for every person on their staff. There is an MTA corporate surcharge. The MTA gets its vig on every telephone bill, takes a bite of the sales tax on every transaction, real estate sales pay tribute, as do taxi passengers whenever the meter is turned on. Despite all these taxes, fares are up again.
Where does all that money go? Cost overruns, featherbedding, escalating labor costs with no worker concessions for productivity. The East Side Access project that will bring the LIRR into Grand Central is 15 years behind schedule (it might be finished by 2022) and the cost has ballooned to more than $11 billion from $3.5 billion in 1990.
Isn’t it interesting how congestion pricing was rammed through as part of the overall state budget instead of being introduced as separate legislation? That would have required hearings and a vote by a legislative committee. A careful analysis of the overall costs and benefits should have been presented. The public—residents, suburbanites, businesses, restaurants, the theater and entertainment industry, garage owners—should have had an opportunity to point out how this would affect them.
Mujica peddles the fiction that this will decrease congestion. Given the reliability of the region’s transit systems how many heading into Manhattan for an evening of dinner and a show, or an afternoon of shopping will forgo their cars for the off-peak schedules on the LIRR, New Jersey Transit or Metro-North? How many people just won’t bother to come into town at all?
Apparently, there was no discussion of the broader economic impact. Under the proposal, trucks would be assessed $25 in addition to any cross-river tolls. Every piece of merchandise sold in Manhattan arrives by truck. Grocery stores often get several deliveries a day. How high can the price of a gallon of milk go?
There is already talk that the coming reduction in traffic will make more room for bike lanes and pedestrian plazas, which are major contributors to the current state of affairs.
Reduce congestion? Not likely.
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