Monday, October 08, 2007

MTA: "Check Please!"

The NY Times is reporting today that the mayor's traffic tax will have to come with a huge price tag. Here's the paper's lead: "Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s plan to ease traffic congestion by charging motorists who drive into the busiest parts of Manhattan would cost hundreds of millions of dollars for new bus and subway services and mass transit improvements to accommodate tens of thousands of new riders, transportation officials say."

The MTA's actual estimate here is $767 million-and that's their estimate. Once cost overruns and unanticipated charges are factored in, this price tag will only get higher. This cost is a result of the anticipated ridership increase if the mayor is able to tax folks enough to disincentive driving into the CBD.

It also means that the $8 initial fee will escalate in conjunction with the higher capital costs. As the Times puts it: "Eventually, the transit agency said, revenues from congestion pricing would help cover the costs." Which means that there will not only be a higher congestion tax, but the fare will have to be raised to cover interim costs as well ("unfunded capital costs").

Another interesting item in the Times article is a report from the NYS DOT: "A second report, by the State Department of Transportation, said that congestion pricing would affect state highways and transportation lines outside the jurisdiction of the transit agency. But it said it did not have enough data to predict traffic changes and could not estimate the costs..."

This seems to mean that there will be a traffic ripple effect, and that no one can really know how the mayor's plan will impact areas outside of the CBD-something that has led us to demand the full EIS be done on this tax scheme. It is an unsupportable shot in the dark that will inevitably be paid for by perpetually escalating fees. As plan foe Richard Brodsky told the Times: “You’re bumping up against almost $1 billion in unfunded capital costs...Both reports are saying there are tremendous uncertainties. You have to have all these mass transit improvements in place before the plan goes into effect. And you’re probably going to see the $8 fee doubled almost immediately.”

The breaks need to be put on all of this, and a full evaluation of all aspects of the scheme needs to be done before there is any determination is made about what's in the public interest. No one should be simply taking the mayor's word.