Sunday, June 24, 2007

The High Cost of Congestion

Brian Kates has an interesting piece in this morning's NY Daily News on the lavish support that the mayor's plan is getting from multiple sources. Proponents of the congestion tax argue that the plan will be a financial boon for restaurants, construction, taxi drivers and ferries; "And many people-including lobbyists, public relations gurus and lawyers-are already walking away with piles of cash."

Still, it is clear that the ultimate bill for the lobbying effort in support of the proposed tax scheme will run into the millions of dollars-outspending opponents by better than 15-1. The NYC Partnership, "has spent $1 million to research and promote the plan," while the Metropolitan Taxi Board has been spending $10,000 a month for the past two years for lobbying fees in support of congestion pricing. Add to this, Pat Lynch's $15,000/month from the Environmental Defense Fund and $300,000 spent by traditional outsiders like Transportation Alternatives, and we have the most unusual array of political bedfellows shilling for the congestion tax.

But, as the chart in the News shows (not seen in the electronic edition), the clear losers if this plan were to go into effect would be the middle class commuters from the outer boroughs who will be paying the full congestion tax freight, while their well-heeled fellow commuters from the suburbs will be getting the toll-based discount. In addition, as the chart points out, small contractors and distributors who must come into the CBD to do business will be taxed unfairly-since the new toll will not keep their trucks from the roads they need to travel in order to simply stay in business.

But Kates misses the even larger "riches" that the mayor's plan is generating. As we have pointed out already, the mayor is running a veritable smorgasbord of municipal goodies for those electeds who join with him in support of the plan-and many of these folks represent districts whose residents are strongly opposed to the new tax. If and when this pork barrel auction is exposed, there will be a lot of politicians with a little more than just egg on their faces.