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Congestion pricing is just another MTA extortion

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo has just launched another assault on our wallets. The deceptively named Fix NYC toll scheme that he recently announced is a heavy-handed shakedown of lower- to middle‑class outer-borough residents who drive or commute into Manhattan. We have been down this road before, and New Yorkers simply cannot continue to feed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s voracious appetite for our dollars.

In this latest iteration of congestion pricing, instead of tolling our free East River crossings, the plan imposes a new $11.52 toll on all drivers who enter the city’s “central business district” — which is defined as Manhattan south of 60th Street. An “invisible” toll barrier around the perimeter of the “geographic pricing zone” will be erected and may be expanded later, according to the plan. This is a crushing cost burden that families and seniors on fixed incomes cannot afford.

It’s obvious that the Fix NYC tolling scheme is really about levying another tax on New Yorkers and has little to do about congestion. This is exposed when we note that the tolling period isn’t only during weekdays and daytime hours. The Fix NYC advisory panel report recommends “exploring expanding the period during which the drivers face a zone charge … this could include weekend hours … or a zone fee in effect 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.”

The plan states that average vehicle speeds in Manhattan are 4.7 miles per hour and would increase less than half a mile per hour to a BLAZING 5.1 mph when the plan is fully enacted. Yes, a 9 percent increase in speed sounds statistically significant, but in reality, it is inconsequential. That is because commuters traveling into Manhattan park and leave their cars in garages, all day. Parked cars do not create congestion.

But bike lanes, whose use precludes all but the youngest and fittest, in a city that has many days of inclement weather and four months of winter, when those lanes sit idle, have created much of the congestion we now see. A bike lane on a major Manhattan thoroughfare removes 25 percent or more of the available travel lanes. And many Manhattan thoroughfares now have them. Is it any wonder that as we doubled the number of bike lanes over the past decade, we saw a corresponding 30 percent reduction in travel speeds and more congestion? Remove some of those bike lanes, and travel times and congestion will improve.

Many families on tight budgets living in transit-starved regions of the outer boroughs who may drive to a doctor’s appointment or want to enjoy a show or dinner with friends in Manhattan are being told stay home, while folks living in Manhattan can enjoy all the amenities without encumbering the new toll tax. And the toll for trucks would be a whopping $25.34, a cost that will surely be passed on to consumers, a double whammy that is as regressive as it gets.

The Fix NYC tolling plan is just the latest extortion attempt by the city to create a sustainable revenue stream for the MTA’s insatiable appetite for our tax dollars.

First it was the $15 NYC auto use tax,

Then the $30 metropolitan commuter supplemental registration fee,

Then the MTA Tax Surcharge — an add-on to the city’s already high sales tax,

Then the MTA mobility tax, imposed on all self-employed individuals,

Then the 50-cent taxi surcharge on every cab ride.

All to create a sustainable revenue stream for the MTA. Now we’re being told that the $11.52 toll will finally create that elusive sustainable revenue stream that these other costly fees, which we’re all still paying, failed to do.

The Manhattan-centric proponents of the tolling plan call car ownership a luxury, when for many in the outer-borough including people with disabilities, it’s a necessity. Motorists already pay gas taxes, tire taxes, registration and license fees and exorbitant parking garage sales taxes to support mass transit, while commuters pay only a fraction of the MTA costs through the fare box. Still worse, bike lane road warriors contribute nothing to the system.

Ideally, the MTA should find ways to economize, adjust priorities, and cut costs before asking taxpayers to dig deeper. In the meantime, a $25 “bike transit tax” on the purchase of any bicycle more than $100 should be enacted so that bike-lane-using commuters start paying their fair share into the regional mass transit network.

Bob Friedrich is president of Glen Oaks Village, a civic leader and a former City Council candidate.

Posted 12:00 am, February 1, 2018
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Reader feedback

Lazy from NY says:
"bike lanes, whose use precludes all but the youngest and fittest", Yea, Bob along with old people are lazy and fat. Get your butt moving and use bike lanes.
Feb. 1, 10:53 am
Justin from Glen Oaks says:
Bob, just let it go. You have no power. Anyone can write to vent. The MTA has power to do what they want and no one can do anything about it.
Feb. 1, 11:27 am
Juliana S from Bellerose says:
Glen Oaks Village is a high crime rate area and Bob does nothing about it.
Feb. 1, 12:50 pm
Ron from Rego Park says:
"...lower- to middle‑class outer-borough residents who drive or commute into Manhattan"

Is this based on actual data? Lower-class people that own cars and commute into Manhattan, leaving their cars in a garage all day? Or drive their cars into the city on weekends to park in a garage and go to a show and dinner? Really?

So bike lanes should be removed because only young and fit people can ride a bike (!), but driving into midtown should always be free since anyone of any income level can afford to buy a car, drive to the city and park in a garage all day.

I agree with the author that "the MTA should find ways to economize, adjust priorities, and cut costs before asking taxpayers to dig deeper." But framing this as an assault on the working class folks doesn't strike me as an effective argument.
Feb. 1, 12:50 pm
Fred from Bellerose says:
Nothing makes sense of anything Bob writes. He lives with his parents and unemployed. If you have a job, then no one has time for being civic and volunteer jobs.
Feb. 1, 2:04 pm
What About... from Queens says:
those who drive between the Bronx and Queens? Why don't we get rid of those tolls?
Feb. 1, 3:13 pm
Eve Bed from Queens says:
Anyone read Bob's previous posts? None of them mattered anyway and they went ahead against Bob's opposing as usual. Why is Bob wasting time with writing when no other publications won't allow him. Queens Courier called his articles a real joke.
Feb. 1, 4:01 pm
Arthur from Queens says:
I remember Bob when he had long pony tail being bald as he is riding around with his white motorcycle. That bike was brought with the maintenance money as a write-off. There was never any election in Glen Oaks Village and he keeps himself bragging as president.
Feb. 1, 4:41 pm
Melinda from Queens says:
What is really written here?
It’s all confusing with words that doesn’t make sense.
Feb. 1, 5:11 pm
Duh from Queens says:
Get over it Bob, its for the best like everything else. No wonder you lost election for City Council six times.
Feb. 2, 9:56 am
Mental Man from NY says:
What's wrong with Bob? Is he sane? Looks to me he is suffering from depression.
Feb. 2, 2:16 pm
Frank from Glen Oaks says:
Bob is "Mr. Extortion" in Glen Oaks. He fines people for everything from chewing gum to sitting on the porch. I wonder how much he pockets himself.
Feb. 3, 2:45 pm
Pedro Valdez-Rivera says:
Always focus on the lesser of two evils in terms of funding the MTA. Meanwhile, the sorry excuse of an agency needs to get itself together by doing cost cutting measures, cut the salaries of all executives and open the "two sets of books" to the general public.
Feb. 13, 4:36 pm
Fred from Glen Oaks says:
Has it ever occur to Bob he doesn't have a job but volunteer as the president of Glen Oaks Village. He doesn't want to let go of his title believing he has a recognition but everyone here knows his real character.
March 24, 12:51 pm

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