See Manhattan For Just $8 A Day!!

aAn expanded version of this has been posted by FOX News on its website. CLICK HERE.

New York City Mayor Bloomberg--himself a billionaire--proposes a new $8-a-day tax for the privilege of driving into Manhattan (unless you stay north of 86th Street--up toward Harlem).

For trucks, it's even worse--$21 a day.

The mayor calls it a "congestion fee". In fact, it's a tax and a penalty for using a motor vehicle. And the purpose is not to help pay for the roads and bridges used by drivers. Instead, hundreds of millions of dollars would be transferred annually to benefit the users of mass transit which is already heavily-subsidized by drivers and the general taxpayer. Overall, the plan would support about a $50-billion expansion of NYC's huge mass transit.

Their hope is that the media's efforts to stampede fear of global warming has changed the political environment. This audacious plan is being touted in the name of protecting the environment, hoping to disguise its true nature as a major new tax.

Mayor Bloomberg's Earth Day-timed announcement featured a video introduction by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the West Coast's Rockefeller Republican. That raises obvious questions of whether the Governator is ready to test similar ideas in California. British Prime Minister Tony Blair also made a video cameo appearance, saying “This would mark out New York as a global leader in halting climate change."

Because the NYC plan requires an intricate Big Brother-monitoring system to track every vehicle's movements, just building the high-tech infrastructure is estimated to cost an initial $225-million, and the federal government is already being suggested as the source for that money. The Bush Administration's Transportation Secretary, Mary E. Peters, didn't throw cold water on the notion with her response, "This plan is the kind of bold thinking leaders across the country need to embrace if we hope to win the battle against traffic congestion."

Fortunately, that one sentence was the entirety of the Secretary's statement, leaving plenty of wiggle room as the politics of this plan mature.

Rising fuel prices already provide free-market disincentives for drivers, but if they switch to mass transit there's fewer drivers left to subsidize that transit--thus the $8-per-day fee to make up the difference and keep the subsidies growing.

We're hearing angry outcries already from those who will be hurt by this fee. But imagine the even-larger outcry if the Mayor had proposed funding the mass transit expansion by raising the fares for using the subway or buses! This "farebox recovery rate" in New York City covers about half that system's annual operating costs--and none of the capital expenses--leading to an annual deficit in the billion-dollar neighborhood. Even so, those riders pay a larger percentage of the operating costs than in any other transit system in America. Still, the users of mass transit wouldn't be the ones paying for this $50-billion capital expansion.

Traffic congestion is a serious problem. The U.S. Transportation Department has suggested various approaches, including what is called "value pricing", whereby users of toll roads would pay higher rates during peak periods.

However, true value pricing typically would use the extra fees to improve roads and bridges to handle the traffic. Bloomberg's proposal instead would take the money paid by autos and trucks and send it to further subsidize mass-transit.

Usually overlooked in transportation debates is the fact that automobile users already pay a heavy government burden for daring to favor the freedom and flexibility that automobiles provide. One-sixth of the federal fuel taxes paid by drivers is diverted to mass transit already.

The almost-all Democratic NYC Congressional delegation can be expected to push for federal funding to implement this plan, with significant pushback to be hoped for both from Republicans and from Democrats in other parts of the country.

In the movie, people wanted out, not in!

aRead Mayor Bloomberg's plan here.
aAmtrak and mass transit are heavily-subsized; aviation has a much-smaller subsidy; and drivers get a "negative subsidy" as fuel taxes are siphoned off to mass transit. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics publishes the numbers
here. On average, transit receives over $5-billion per year in net federal subsidies, while highway users paid about $8-billion more than is plowed back into roads. On a passenger-mile basis, passenger rail (Amtrak) is the most heavily subsidized mode, followed by mass transit, and (distantly) by aviation. But users of autos and trucks pay extra rather than being subsized. © 2008. Blogger Template by Blogger Tutorial