Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Traffic Class

The just released IBO report on the congestion tax plan has caused considerable discussion-particularly on the issue of the class impact of the tax. As the NY Daily News reports this morning, in a headline that captures the essence of all this: Congestion plan would hit middle-class commuters hardest, report says-"Middle-class motorists who don't live in Manhattan will get hit the hardest by Mayor Bloomberg's congestion-pricing plan, a report out Tuesday revealed."

As the NY Post says this morning, however,: "The IBO also reported that the median salary of city residents who drive into the proposed congestion zone is $41,209, compared with $32,379 for the city's mass-transit commuters. "These findings largely counter concerns that congestion pricing would disproportionately affect workers less able to afford additional commuting costs," the report said." They do?

Sounds like a straw man to us. No one has said that the commuters who would be impacted by the tax are less affluent than the mass transit riders-only that they were middle calls folks, which the IBO report clearly indicates that they are. Yet the truth gets stood on its head when the NYC Bicycle Club gets into the act: "That's precisely what Transportation Alternatives, the advocacy group eagerly pushing congestion pricing, was waiting to hear from a nonpartisan authority. "It really turns the argument we've been hearing again and again [about hurting the middle class] on its head," declared the group's spokesman, Wiley Norvell."

Say what? Someone making forty thousand a year isn't middle class in this city? Well, we've seen young Mr. Norvell and we can surmise why he might feel this way, but it contradicts what we all know about what it costs to live here. As our Walter McCaffrey told the Post: "It [the study] doesn't necessarily come to the conclusion they'll be able to pay another $5,000 a year tax," McCaffrey said of the better-off drivers." Indeed!

As Assemblyman Brodsky tells the News: "This report is further proof that the mayor has come up with a regressive bad idea that will keep the Chevolets out of Manhattan but not the BMWs," said Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester), an outspoken critic of congestion pricing." And Assemblyman Lancman tells Newsday: "The IBO's new report illustrates the unfairness in Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing proposal, where drivers from New Jersey, who represent a quarter of all current commuters, will not pay any additional fee at all, but New York City's already underpaid teachers, firefighters and cops will pay a disproportionately high share of the new fees," said Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Queens)."

From our vantage point, the data generated by the IBO report loudly contradicts some of its apparently ideologically-driven conclusions. A tax is a last resort in an already over-taxed city; and those who propose these taxes so cavalierly are either flying way below-like our buddy Norvell-or way above-like the NYC Partnership-the tax burden radar.