Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Mass Transit Use is Rising

After figures were released showing that ridership in New York City has increased by 2.3% for buses and 6.8% for subways, and 5% for Metro-North and the Long Island Railroad*, presumably attributable to soaring gasoline prices, an editorial in today's Daily News once again excoriates State Senator Sheldon Silver for not rubber-stamping Mayor Bloomberg's wrong approach to congestion pricing.
*Source: The New York Times

Why is it that the Daily News, Richard Ravitch, and Mayor Bloomberg seek to impose an additional burden, by tolling the free East River bridges, on already overtaxed and underserved New York City residents? The drivers coming from New Jersey, and the counties of Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland, and Fairfield County, Connecticut—those riders, who contribute the greatest amount to congestion and pollution, would have received a discount for tolls paid. Any new congestion plan must eliminate that discount.

A far more equitable, and more effective approach to congestion pricing would double the tolls on the Henry Hudson, Throgs Neck, Triborough and Whitestone bridges, and add $8.00 "Welcome to New York City" tolls on the L.I.E., the Grand Central, the Southern and Northern State Parkways, and at the exits into the city from the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, and the George Washington Bridge. That would cut a lot more traffic, and provide much greater funding for mass transit. Drivers from those areas have access to NJ Transit, Metro-North, or the Long Island Railroad, and Metro-North and Long Island Railroad riders are already subsidized by the state to a much greater degree than are New York City Transit users, who pay a greater share of transit costs than do riders of mass transit anywhere in the United States.

To show just how inequitable the Bloomberg approach is to outer-borough residents, I've added together the household median incomes of Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland and Fairfield counties, and come up with an average median income for those surrounding areas of $70,912.00. That's quite a bit more than the average of Kings, Bronx, Queens, Manhattan and Richmond counties, which is only $39,850.00*. If we're going to have congestion pricing, the fees should come from the majority of drivers who are also better-equipped to pay—not from city residents.
*Source: Wikipedia

Finally, the Daily News once again mourns the loss of the $354 million that would have bought 300 new express buses, and very minor improvements to four of our twenty-six subway lines. I, too, will miss those improvements, but without major reforms at the MTA, reforms not included in PlaNY 2030, those promises, too, would likely have been broken.