Ok, so this proposal was announced last week, and…well…I needed a few days to ponder my reaction. No matter how hard I thought about it, all I was left with was: “WTF?”
The New York State Assembly basically wants to 1) pick a fight and 2) ride on the “green” coat tails of Mayor Bloomberg. The Mayor announced his congestion pricing plan designed to charge an $8 fee to drive in midtown during peak times. It was met with great approval by New Yorkers, over 80% approval. So of course, the Assembly doesn’t want some great idea to be passed without them being involved, so of course the must tamper.
So, they throw out the idea of lowering the subway fare to 50 cents (from $2) during rush hours. [sigh]
Let’s talk about all the reasons why this might be the worst idea on the planet. First, it is going to do nothing to lower carbon emissions, which is the freaking point. Trying to lure people out of the cars by saving them a buck-fifty isn’t going to work. Drivers are just going to keep driving because it won’t cost them any more to drive. Sure, the might contemplate the savings by taking the subway, but let’s face it, there’s a reason that they like to drive in the first place. Saving them a little change isn’t going to inspire them to hit the rails.
On the flip side, a lot more people will ride the trains and buses for shorter trips. Right now, people walk if their destination isn’t worth the $2 to take the subway. Reducing the fare to 50 cents will encourage more people to take very short trips. The number of one stop riders will skyrocket. “For $2…ehh…I’ll just walk,” will be replaced by, “Hell, it’s only 50 cents…lets ride.”
Also, you’re banking on people flooding into the public transportation system that can’t handle the load as it is. As a whole, yeah, the system might be able to handle a sharp increase in traffic. However, certain lines are going to come to a grinding halt. Just to name a few, the 1, 2, and 3 line and the F line will flood well over capacity. They are already over crowded!
You may argue that the Mayor’s congestion pricing model is going to do the same thing, but you would be wrong. Yes, there will be some increase in usage of the public transportation system, but not an insane increase. Why? Because congestion pricing does not target New Yorkers.
Bloomberg was initially concerned that congestion pricing would have a huge financial impact on outer borough residents coming into Manhattan. However, it turns out that most outer borough peeps are smart, and already rely mostly on the subway to get into midtown. So, congestion pricing really hurt them much. Instead, congestion pricing impacts commercial traffic and people coming into the city from out of town. So, all the people that live out of town, but come in to work will be saddled with most of the fees. Sounds like a plan to me.
This island is home for us New Yorkers. We already pay a HUGE city tax to live here on top of our state and federal taxes. So it is about time that people from out of town pay a little bit into the kitty. Everyone wants to come work here, but doesn’t want it to cost them anything. No dice my friends. If you want to live in New Jersey and work in midtown, fine. But it’s going to cost you a few bucks to drive to work. Either pay it, or hop on the PATH train.
I’ve often thought that it was a little shady that we (New Yorkers) have to pay a city tax so that everyone else can come in to visit and have a good time. Sure, I know that the tourists and visitors bring in many sales tax dollars. I realize that, but still.
Also, it drives me nuts when politicians from Albany start to stick there noses into local issues like this. To them, the City is just a big political soapbox to stand on, from which they can get themselves on TV for 30 seconds. In all honesty, we are really don’t have any need for the state politicians. Major NYC decisions should be made by local representatives and residents. Period. Do we really need a state rep from somewhere way upstate making decisions about our subway fares? I think not.