Saturday, April 21, 2007

Eight Dollar Cover

Want to drive into NYC below 86th street? It could soon cost $8:

A mayoral panel has proposed charging motorists to enter Manhattan below 86th Street from 6 am to 6 p.m. That charge would:

  • Include any bridge or tunnel tolls people already pay
  • Exempt drivers who bypass the business district on their way to another part of the city.
  • Exempt taxi drivers, and possibly give discounts for people who live and work in the zone.

Advocates said it's crucial for a city that's expected to add another million people in the next 20 years.

Reducing NYC traffic is a great idea. Public transportation here and in the boroughs is the best in the nation. I got rid of my car and beyond missing it when I need to go upstate, my life hasn't changed. When I had the car, it sat in a garage in Jersey City. I seldom drove it in Manhattan because: a) I don't need a car here and b) driving here is typically more time consuming than using mass transit. Not everyone feels this way though:
Former Queens Councilman Walter McCaffrey represents a group opposed to the idea."Those individuals who are not that well to do are going to find they're being hit with a $5,000 a year tax," McCaffrey said.
I understand that people are concerned about cost. An extra $8/day wouldn't cause much hissing from the average business fat cat. So yes, it is unfair to less-affluent drivers. But, what percentage of Manhattan bound commuters really have to be using a car? Where do they park while they're at work? The cheapest Manhattan garages I know of below 86th Street are on the far west side in the 50's. The last time I looked they were running around $250-300/month. If they're city employees, are taxpayers picking up the parking tab? I hope not.

Are there non-fat cat positions in Manhattan that reimburse for parking? If so, then require employers to negotiate with the city for a transit pass that covers the cost of getting to work for lower-income employees. Goldman Sachs covers the cost of ferry service between Jersey City and NYC for their employees. There's nothing wrong with making a business behave like a decent citizen. Let it fall under that beloved old saw of corporate types, "the cost of doing business."

If I'm wrong on this, I'm happy to reevaluate my take on it. But, it would be a hard sell to get me thinking that nothing needs to be done about NYC traffic. Less cars = more happy.