Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Fare Hikes and a Congestion Tax

We have been arguing that the issue of a fare hike and the mayor's proposed congestion tax. need to be seen as part of one policy puzzle-and the NY Daily News agrees. In yesterday's editorial the paper argued that a fare hike should be put off until a commitment is made by state leaders that would address the waste in the agency and the need to infuse the MTA with "major boosts in transit aid."

Our agreement, however, stops there since the paper continues to make the mayor's congestion tax an essential feature of transit planning going forward. At least this time the News says that any congestion tax money collected should, with an "ironclad guarantee...be dedicated to building and repairing the system, not used to cover standard operating expenses."

We're no going to get into the fact that "ironclad guarantee" is somewhat of an oxymoron when talking about New York State politics, but we will say that, given the size of the capital budget deficit, the use of any congestion tax revenue is a grossly ineffective method for funding the system's glaring infrastructure needs. Not only does the projected tax money woefully fall short, the complex management necessary to make the whole experiment function eats away a hugely unnecessary chunk of the revenue. There are easier and fairer methods for funding the state's transit needs.

The imposition of a congestion tax, especially one that targets the NYC middle class commuter, is just another economic burden on top of a mountain of such levies that combine, as the NY Sun reported yesterday, to give the city a "C" rating from the Business Council of New York State. With both the city and the state growing at a slower rate than the rest of the country, we simply don't need another tax, especially one that funds a dysfunctional and wasteful transit agency.