Traffic Congestion

Everyone Thinks New York City's Congestion Tolls Should Apply to Someone Else

From cops to commercial truckers, everyone wants to be exempt from NYC's congestion pricing policy.

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Malo299/Dreamstime.com

One of satirical publication The Onion's finer moments was its 2000 article "Report: 98 Percent Of U.S. Commuters Favor Public Transportation For Others" which expertly poked fun at the fact that while many Americans like the idea of public transit, they're less than keen on using it themselves.

Something similar is playing out in New York City, where local politicians and interest groups are arguing that the city's new congestion pricing tolls—which will charge drivers a flat fee to enter lower Manhattan—may or may not be a good policy, but certainly shouldn't apply to their constituency.

On Monday, Patrick Lynch, president of the New York City Police Benevolent Association, penned an op-ed in the New York Daily News arguing that off-duty police officers should be exempt from the new tolls.

"We shouldn't have to pay a toll every time we report for duty," wrote Lynch, arguing that police officers "are often required to report for duty at times and locations that are not adequately served by any form of mass transit" meaning they're going to be stuck driving to work, and thus paying tolls.

New York City Councilman Joe Borelli (R–Staten Island) made the same point when he tweeted out Lynch's article, saying that not just cops and first responders, but all civil servants should be exempt from the new tolls.

"Crappy that some firefighters, cops, [sanitation workers], nurses et al working odd hours get $2500 less than those not in [Manhattan]. Or we could just scrap congestion pricing," wrote Borelli.

Already a few exemptions have been enshrined in New York's congestion pricing policy—which was passed as part of the state budget last week—including carveouts for drivers taking limited-access highways through Manhattan, emergency vehicles (which, fair), and Manhattan residents earning less than $60,000 a year.

Who else might warrant special exemptions will now be decided by a new Traffic Mobility Review Board organized under the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)—the state-run agency responsible for running most public transit in New York City. This new board is also empowered to set the price of these congestion tolls.

Legislators punting on these crucial details has kicked off a flurrying of lobbying from officials arguing, like Borelli and Lynch, that they too should not be forced to pay the new tolls.

Hear State Sen. James Sanders (D–Queens) telling constituents in a newsletter that "More work needs to be done to lessen the impact on Queens' motorists."

It's a similar story for commercial truckers, with one industry spokesperson telling Bloomberg "we feel very strongly that commercial vehicles should be exempt—they provide a critical service to New York City." New Jersey's Gov. Phil Murphy (D) likewise demanded that commuters using the George Washington Bridge be exempt from the new tolls.

(See this Curbed article for a longer list of people looking for a special congestion pricing carve-out.)

In part, these calls for an increasing number of exemptions are the New York legislature's own doing, by both declining to hash out a lot of policy specifics about the new congestion pricing policy, and also by not dedicating any of the new toll revenue to improving or expanding the road network. This gives drivers a legitimate gripe that their money is being taken only to be spent on other modes of travel they don't use.

This also shows the inherent problems of trying to make the sensible policy of congestion pricing a political reality. Most everyone can get behind the idea of congestion-free roadways. Few like the idea of having to pay for that benefit.

The trouble is that the more exemptions are made, the less fair and effective New York City's congestion pricing scheme will become. Less fair in that every carveout will in effect privilege one group's transportation needs over another. Less effective in that the fewer drivers the new tolls apply to, the less those tolls will do to reduce gridlock.

This is a problem that's hardly unique to congestion pricing (see our exemption-riddled income tax code for example). Nevertheless, most transit experts agree that congestion pricing is the only effective way of reducing traffic congestion.

New York, by being one of the first places in the United States to give this policy a go, can serve as a model for the policy. Depending on the number of exemptions it makes, it could also serve as a model of what not to.

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  1. most transit experts agree that congestion pricing is the only effective way of reducing traffic congestion

    Traffic congestion is a self-regulating problem in that sitting in gridlocked traffic is a fucking price. Manhattan (and every other urban area) already has congestion pricing, it’s just that the price is denominated in hours and minutes rather than dollars and cents.

    1. Exactly Jerry. All congestion pricing is is rich people wanting that price converted to something less painful for them. That is it.

      1. Lexus Lanes

        1. The fallacy is thinking Lexus Lanes would get built even if you didn’t have tolling. They are ONLY built if the concessionaire is given tolling rights for a few decades. The traffic on the Lexus Lanes reduces congestion on the non-tolled lanes without costing those folks anything.

      2. The really rich are already bypassing the roads altogether and using air taxi helicopters.

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    2. This is proven every time California spends billions and years to widen freeways to reduce congestion. Within a few years the freeway is just as congested as before.

      1. A few years is optimistic.

      2. Atlanta does this same thing that people bitch about – “adding lanes to the interstate doesn’t help, we need mass transit!” – with no comprehension that the congestion keeps the marginal drivers off the road and adding lanes brings out those same drivers. Nobody with a lick of sense is going out during rush hour if they don’t absolutely have to, you add a few lanes and ease up on the congestion and now Grampa can get out on the highway to hit the early-bird special at the Denny’s and soccer mom can go do her grocery shopping at 5 and here comes the congestion.

        1. Hey, we at least added the Peach Pass lanes so now the richest amongst us can get to where we need to be. The rest of those plebes can sit and wait in traffic. Maybe they can learn to code while sitting in traffic.

      3. what you need is more freeways and better interchanges. most traffic is caused when a lane goes away, or when there’s a really inefficient exit, entrance, etc.

        Adding Public Transit won’t help at all.

    3. No, not really. Congestion pricing means there are at least two options: you pay for a faster lane, or you don’t and sit in traffic.

      1. You start out with “No, not really” and then fail to actually correct anything he said.

        1. Sorry you didn’t get it. Jerryskids says congestion pricing is when you can choose between purchasing A or not purchasing A. I say no, congestion pricing requires three options: nit purchasing A, purchasing A at a low price and a slow consumption rate, and purchasing A at a high price and a high consumption rate.

          1. It appears that you’re the one who didn’t get it.

            “Jerryskids says congestion pricing is when you can choose between purchasing A or not purchasing A.”

            Because that’s not what he said.

      2. If you support congestion pricing (or its cousin, the carbon tax) then you kind of lose all credibility to ever question why populist candidates keep winning elections in the West. Supporting a tax that disproportionally impacts the middle class and working class while solving a non-existent “problem” is the height of tyranny.

        1. Anyone remember that whole “Bleeding Heart Libertarian” stuff from about ten years back? In hindsight that was such an unbelievable fraud. I’m ashamed to say that I actually thought those people really believed in using free markets to make life better for the poor. Turns out they were just gentry liberals who were going to parrot whatever talking point they were told to by their betters.

          1. There is a website “Bleeding Heart Libertarians. com” I used to comment but some years ago they dramatically reduced the number of articles open for comments.

            1. Then there was the Will Wilkerson “libraltarian” bullshit. My God is Wilkerson a douche bag.

              1. “Liberaltarian” was coined by Brink Lindsey, whom you might remember as writing an article in support of the Iraq War for Reason before he quickly decided that he opposed the war once it was no longer popular. “Liberaltarians” can more accurately be called “neocons” now if you look at the conferences that the Niskanen people put on now.

          2. The Bleeding Heart Libertarians site is pretty good. I read it. There is some really good discussion on there about libertarian issues that you can’t find anywhere else.

            1. Agreed. But, remember how “bleeding heart” was meant to apply to a concern for the poor. Congestion pricing is the complete opposite of benefiting the poor. It’s essentially a tax for being poor, especially considering that most northern cities in the US are adopting the “Paris Model” whereby the wealthy inhabit the city center (close to jobs) while the poor live in inner ring suburbs or, at best, on the city’s outskirts (further away from employment).

              These environmental laws are evil and will only lead to a more rigid class structure assisted by state action

        2. I don’t understand why Libertarians think populism is such a bad word. What is more populist than individual freedom? A lot of libertarians love individual freedom, or at least claim to, but loath individuals. They are all for “freedom” just so long as it doesn’t allow people to do things they find distasteful or worse unfashionable.

          1. They are all for “freedom” just so long as it doesn’t allow people to do things they find distasteful or worse unfashionable

            For example?

            I suppose populism isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s more of an approach to politics than any particular belief system. Populism looks bad to libertarians because individual freedom in the sense libertarians prefer isn’t always that popular.

          2. Populism is too nebulous a concept. Appealing to the average person? What does that mean? And how does it relate to specific issues? What is the populist position on abortion, for example?

            1. I agree. It is just a word used to describe views the speaker does not like

        3. What? I am seriously confused. Do you support private roads or not? Don’t you think private roads would have congestion pricing? Next we are gonna find out you support net neutrality.

          I think there must be some serious miscommunication going on here.

          1. I do support private roads. I do not support public roads being used to benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor, which is what I think congestion pricing in NYC will do. I didn’t mean to attack your position, just the notion of congestion pricing. But, yes, private roads would have that option and that would be fine, because not everyone would have been forced to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of private roads, other than users.

      3. Except when they set high rates, and that HOV/Toll lane actually reduces the total throughput of the freeway.

        1. That’s exactly what they’ve done to NOVA. The public paid so the rich have the privilege of getting around faster while traffic flow is drastically reduced. It’s rare that I can justify using the high rates of the toll road. It’s even more frustrating because government employees and contractors use it most. The taxpayer has really been screwed by it.

          1. I’m not sure what you mean by “the public paid.” In NOVA, Transurban (a private company) put up the cash to build the express lanes for the tolling rights. True they built it on ‘donated’ public land, but no (little?) taxes were collected for it.

            The Libertarian aspect of this is their incentive to set tolls to maximize traffic volume and therefore revenue which means free-flow at the fast speed possible. Hopefully the same will apply in NYC – set tolls to maximize volume & speed.

            BTW, when they set $40 tolls for single drivers on I-66 into DC, it was as designed – the roadway was already congested and they wanted everyone to avoid it. Kudos to the DOT who didn’t cave to the political pressure

      4. “”Congestion pricing means there are at least two options: you pay for a faster lane, or you don’t “”

        Not for NYC.

        The only options for cars is to pay, or do not proceed.

        1. Pure Libertarians would say all roads should be private and tolled, right? Soon your vehicle will track where you’ve been and pay each roadway owner. I’m waiting for Waze to allow me to set a price for my time when it creates my route.

    4. One of your best posts, ever.

      One of the best posts here, ever.

  2. NYC is “congested.” Does that mean that they meet to “full” threshold for immigration [reference yesterday’s article]?

    1. Nope. NYC doesn’t even show up on Wikipedia’s list of cities by population density. Even just looking at Manhattan (~67,000 people per square mile) there are plenty of cities that are a lot more “full.” Manila has ~107,500 people per square mile.

      1. That’s only counting the people living in Manhattan, not the much greater number that commute there.

  3. “Manhattan residents earning less than $60,000 a year”

    I smell an opportunity. Like subletting a rent controlled apartment…

    If the idea is that cops and nurses are “forced” to report to work during congestion pricing, isn’t that also true of almost EVERYONE ELSE in NYC? Hence the congestion?

  4. This is a problem that’s hardly unique to congestion pricing (see our exemption-riddled income tax code for example). Nevertheless, most transit experts agree that congestion pricing is the only effective way of reducing traffic congestion.

    How about building more roads or as Jerry points out above letting the problem solve itself?

    1. I thought the price of congestion was the wait and slow travel times that drivers experience, and when that price got too high, that would push them into alternate forms of transportation. But of course everything I know about economics I learned from the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse.

    2. Building more roads? NYC already devotes 23% of its land to streets. None of which pays prop taxes obviously. That’s only a tiny bit less than the area devoted to single/multi-family housing – in a city where only a bare majority own cars.

      So exactly how much more land should NYC allocate to folks who don’t pay taxes there, don’t live there, and want a free ride?

      1. “who don’t pay taxes there”

        Might want to reconsoder that one.

        1. Tell me when that land devoted to streets pays as much in NYC taxes as those who live there whose houses get torn down when ‘build more roads’ happens

          1. What does that have to do with the people you said don’t pay taxes there?

          2. I’m loving the new “libertarian” mantra about people paying their fair share in taxes

            1. “That’s no Libertarian”

            2. “I’m loving the new “libertarian” mantra about people paying their fair share in taxes”

              That’s JFree; justly famous for being a dishonest lefty ignoramus. He’s to ‘libertartianism’ like the hag is to integrity.

            3. Shouldn’t a libertarian want taxes to be fair and treat people equally? I mean unless you think compulsory taxes can be abolished entirely. People should pay their fair share of taxes. I don’t know how that’s really controversial. The argument is what constitutes “fair”. Some people think “fair” means people with more money pay more, some people thing “fair” means people pay for what they use.

              1. And what exactly do you find “fair” about a tax that disproportionally increases costs for the poor, while appease the sensibilities of the rich?

                1. I guess licensing laws are “fair” so long as the gentry urbanite deems it so.

                2. And what exactly do you find “fair” about a tax that disproportionally increases costs for the poor,

                  What do you think ‘build roads’ means in cities? It means eminent domain will be used to raze tens/hundreds of thousands of residences and destroy neighborhoods by running highways through the middle of them and permanently shrink available land supply for housing and centralize it to be doled out to development cronies. You think it’s Wall Streeters neighborhoods where that’ll happen or who will suffer? And guess who’s gonna be forced to move to way the hell out to multi-hour commutes? Adding yet more congestion so rinse and repeat.

                  Enough’s enough. Cities aren’t suburbs and suburbs aren’t cities. They are fundamentally different things. Robert Moses is dead.

            4. No group is as dependent on govt coercion and free riding as America’s drivers.

              1. All drivers pay for gasoline. Gasoline is taxed in every state in the union, and generally it’s seen as a tax meant to spend on public roads (even though lying, thieving politicians misallocate those funds constantly).

                New York drivers pay a higher gasoline tax than any other state in the union, including California. Someone might wonder if 69.2 cents per gallon is a bit much, when combined with the 24.4 cents per gallon that’s the federal excise.

                1. Not all drivers pay for gasoline. Electric vehicles/bicycles/PNG is another reason the gas tax is being replaced by usage fee like NYC. I’ll hold my breath waiting for the gas taxes to be repealed.

          3. “People, trusts, and estates must pay the New York City Personal Income Tax if they earn income in the City. ”

            http://www1.nyc.gov/nycbusines…..ayroll-tax

            Plus sales taxes.

            1. And their employer pays taxes.

  5. New York, by being one of the first places in the United States to give this policy a go, can serve as a model for the policy. Depending on the number of exemptions it makes, it could also serve as a model of what not to.

    Over/under on which way this goes. Go commenters!

    1. what not to, under 12 months.

    2. The next LP candidate will endorse it, thus cementing the party as “the alternative that wasn’t”

  6. New York, by being one of the first places in the United States to give this policy a go, can serve as a model for the policy. Depending on the number of exemptions it makes, it could also serve as a model of what not to.

    So what are the odds that it ends up doing the thing that is the model v doing the thing that is the opposite of the model?

    1. It will lead to a larger outflow of working class people in the city, so it will accomplish what it was intended to do

  7. I love this. It’s a direct reaction to the change in tax policy that prevents big cities like NYC from transferring costs to the rest of the country by charging high city taxes, that their citizens can then deduct from their federal tax.

  8. Maybe just stop voting for democrats then? Why doesn’t anyone there(or here in California) ever think of that?

    1. New York tried that and it didn’t seem to help.

  9. Thus does the magic of individual choice and free markets transmogrify into rent seeking, regulatory capture, and the tragedy of the commons. Some problems can’t be solved any way but collectively. Almost by definition, collective solutions are less than optimal for most (or all) stake holders. Free-market/individual-choice ideologues are allergic to that insight, and too often try to avoid even discussing solutions to those kinds of problems. Watch this thread for examples.

    1. Congestion pricing solves exactly zero problems

      1. Congestion pricing transfers costs to the users instead of taxpayers and lets the market sort out pricing. How does this not solve the problem?

    2. “Thus does the magic of individual choice and free markets transmogrify into rent seeking, regulatory capture, and the tragedy of the commons.”

      Thus do you once more make an ass of yourself.
      Is this genetic, or have you practiced long hours to be so proficient at such a pathetic skill.

      1. “”Is this genetic, or have you practiced long hours to be so proficient at such a pathetic skill.”‘

        Does it have to be either or?

  10. As it stands, congestion pricing (much like a carbon tax) will disproportionally fall on the working class and middle class. Gee, I sure do wonder why populists keep winning elections in the West?

    1. It just enforces an oligarchy.

  11. http://dailycaller.com/2019/04…..-campaign/

    Barr tells Senators he thinks the Obama DOJ and FBI did spy on the Trump campaign and that spying on a political campaign is “a big deal”. I don’t think this is going to end well for a lot of people.

  12. “Everyone Thinks New York City’s Congestion Tolls Should Apply to Someone Else”

    The AOC/Bern wing of the D party is planning on funding it’s ‘free shit’ by applying taxes in exactly the same manner.

    1. “The AOC/Bern wing of the D party is planning on funding it’s ‘free shit’ by applying taxes in exactly the same manner.”

      The entire D party has been playing that game for a long time. The new ultra leftist wing is just cranking it up to an even more idiotic level.

  13. The purpose of the policy is to make life more convenient for each person and stick it to “them”. Each person failing to realize they are somebody else’s “them”.

    The way to relieve congestion is to convince people that lower Manhatten is too inconvenient to live or work in, but no one is going to admit that as the point of the policy.

    1. Bingo. This is a problem that needs no government sollution. The price of going to Manhattan is sitting in traffic. Clearly, the people doing it find that a price worth paying or they wouldn’t be doing it. If the price were too high, they would either come at a different time or not come at all. It is their choice.

      1. You want to go to the Mecca of basketball, you sit in traffic.

  14. You can ration a good by price or by time. Ordinarily, rationing a good by price is the proper choice because allowing the price to rise will create an incentive to produce more of the good, which makes everyone better off. Since roads are publiclly owned, that isn’t the case here. Rationing access to Manhattan by price doesn’t create anymore supply since the government builds roads and there is no room for any more roads anyway. So rationing accesss to Manhattan by price accomplishes nothing accept allow those who can afford it to avoid paying with their time. That hardly seems just or better than rationing it by time.

    1. Even Gordon Gekko had to contend with Manhattan traffic while in his limousine.

      1. He had to have some place and time to enjoy all those hookers and blow.

        1. Do you remember the scene in which Bud Fox is in the limo and Gekko asks him wouldn’t you want to be so rich that “you don’t have to waste time?”

    2. So you don’t think private bus companies will spring up to take you to Battery Park? How about Uber/Lyft car/van pools? Just because you can’t think of a supply solution don’t assume there isn’t one. Trust the market.

  15. http://www.businessinsider.com…..ons-2016-9

    Holy Cow is John McAfee a complete lunatic.

  16. I have such a love-hate relationship with NY. I grew up about an hour and half upstate, right up the Hudson River valley. I am still a huge Yankees and Giants (yes I know they play in NJ) fan, and I still get nostalgic thinking about watching WPIX (channel 11) in the evenings. (That is where I found Star Trek for the first time, on re-runs.) I also went to college on Long Island and of course we would take the LIRR into the city occasionally on the weekends.
    So much fun, great food and history as one of the truly historic “great” cities.

    But there are few places in the US (Chicago along with it) in which I hate the politics more than NYC.

    1. The sad fact is that upstate New York is a beautiful place and wouldn’t be a bad place to live, if it wasn’t governed by Albany.

      1. It’s also a pretty big gun state too.

    2. I likewise have a fondness for NorCal. Yikes.

  17. How can a Manhattan resident making less than 60,000 a year afford a car?? Also if you’re in Manhattan you have access to incredible mass transit. That’s the stupidest exception I’ve heard.

    1. Self-identifies tax fraud. Seems like a great idea to me.

  18. “sensible policy of congestion pricing a political reality”

    Why is it sensible? You are being punished for going to a job. Take public? Late, costly, and unsafe.

    If you want to truly solve congestion pricing businesses have to change the way they work. No-one says the job has to be 9-5. Some can shift 10 to 6 or something. (Or even the 4 day work week) Also more companies can move to telework.

    Yes, I realize it doesn’t work for every job but it would be a start. Instead, it’s just tax and punish people.

    1. Businesses and people will adapt to the congestion. It is a problem that solves itself. There is no reason to start charging people.

      1. MARKET FAILURE

        Reason say only effective central planning by credentialed transportation experts can solve this problem

        most transit experts agree

      2. “”Businesses and people will adapt to the congestion. It is a problem that solves itself.”‘

        If they want to penalize people for congestion, let dealing with the congestion be the penalty. But that doesn’t produce any revenue for the MTA.

  19. trying to make the sensible policy of congestion pricing a political reality

    Cosmotarian amyl nitrate.

  20. NYC congestion pricing has NOTHING to do with congestion. It simply is a way for Governor Cuomo to raise taxes to pay for subway maintenance and a smattering of other MTA expenses. The proof is that the toll for entering the “congested” area will apply 24 hours a day, not at times of unusual congestion.
    NY also has a “commuter” tax to fund the MTA. It applies to, among others, all self-employed in the metro area, including those who live and work in the suburbs, and those who live in the city, none of whom commute.
    One should never judge or weigh a NY tax by its name.

    1. ^^^^ This is exactly it.

    2. I think there is an MTA surcharge on one of my utility bills.

      The MTA wants it’s hands in all of your pockets whether you’re a MTA customer or not.

      There was one time I applauded Ghouliani. MTA wanted to raise fares and he threatened to have their books opened. The MTA backed down.

    3. And of course they always focus on raising more revenue to pay for the MTA and never consider cutting the expense of it by reforming the incompetent and corrupt management of it and getting rid of overpriced unionized labor and overstaffing requirements.

  21. This town ain’t big enough for the 8 million of us.

  22. Another way to help reduce congestion in NYC (and other parts of the country as well) is repeal the Jones Act.

    There is an article on the Cato Institute web site about that.

    Absent the Jones act, a lot of cargo that is currently shipped by trucks would be transported on container ships instead and reduce the truck traffic clogging the highways.

    1. Gonna have to build a lot of canals to get those container ships to the local Walmart.

      1. It works for coastal areas of the country – which includes NYC.

  23. Well Reason’s throbbing hardon for toll roads simply cannot apparently be satisfied. Of course we all have to pay for roads but if you actually want to use those roads you have to pay again because that’s the libertarian way. If only we had bigger and better bureaucracies and the right tracking devices we’d be celebrating the elusive libertarian moment.

  24. “Of course we all have to pay for roads but if you actually want to use those roads you have to pay again because that’s the libertarian way. ”

    Sounds more like a deliberate misrepresentation of the libertarian way.

    There would be no “paying again” in a libertarian road system as the roads would not be built by the government using tax money in the first place. The company building the road would finance and own the road and charge tolls for using it.

    Some of the first roads ever built in the United States were toll roads

  25. I’d enjoy just the opposite: where I got to take public transport’n & nobody else did.

  26. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.\

    >>>>>>>>>> http://www.GeoSalary.com

  27. It’s not even law yet and they’re already talking about carve-outs.
    Time to take this one behind the barn and shoot it.

  28. Or they could just give up on the city as a badly misgoverned, unredeemable Progressive mess, and turn the lights off.

  29. Daniel. true that Esther`s storry is surprising… on tuesday I got a great Smart ForTwo since getting a check for $5857 this last 5 weeks and a little over ten grand this past-month. this is actually the nicest work I have ever had. I actually started 9-months ago and straight away started to bring in over $73.. per-hour. I follow the details here,

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