Saturday, November 22, 2008

Did Opposition to Congestion Pricing Pour Fuel on MTA's Fare Hike Fire?

When the New York State legislature failed to approve a congestion pricing plan that would have imposed a weekday fee on vehicles entering the southern half of Manhattan Island, they walked away from $500 million a year to pay for transit improvements plus $360 million in federal aid. With New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority looking to hike railroad, subway and bus fares and bridge and tunnel tolls by 23 percent to close a $1.2 billion budget gap, the move looks shortsighted today, according to an editorial in Westchester County's Journal News.

The funds would have helped mitigate the fare hike two ways, not only would it have created a new revenue stream to support transit, just as the MTA acquisition of the Triborough Bridge & Tunnel Authority did 40 years ago, but it would have been a disincentive for driving into Manhattan that would have resulted in more more suburban commuters riding Metro North and the Long Island Rail Road and paying for monthly commuter passes.

That's the kind of behavior the plan was supposed to bring about, i.e. get people out of their cars. That's what happened when gasoline prices over $4 per gallon:
"...sent so many motorists scurrying for Metro-North trains. That's exactly how an incentive to choose mass transit is supposed to work. Driving became untenable; the train - the cleaner, cheaper and greener alternative - suddenly made better sense."
But the MTA fare hikes might have the opposite effect, especially for motorists who can access free bridges to reach Manhattan. That's what the transportation planners who created the "Kheel Plan" calling for free transit in New York fear. In an article in Streetsblog, they predict a 25 percent fare hike would put 30,000 more cars on New York's most congested streets, reduce subway ridership by six percent and slow the snail's pace of New York traffic by another four percent.

So, lets give three Bronx cheers to Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver and all the politicians, especially from the suburbs, for their shortsighted opposition to congestion pricing. They did their transit-rising constituents no favors.

1 comment:

  1. Inspect away Congestion! The city should toughen inspections for medical, psychiatric and vehicle reasons to cut down the number of congestion. This way, we will also get the voters against congestion pricing, who live in Bayside and Staten Island, to move away. Free health care means psychiatric care for all those angry talk radio white males!

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