NYC Voters Oppose Pricing Unless it Helps Prevent a Fare Hike

A new Quinnipiac Poll shows that New York City voters would support congestion pricing by a 53-41 margin if it "prevents a hike
in mass transit fares."

The new poll also shows that a majority of voters still oppose the idea of congestion pricing by a margin of 61 to 33. Support for Mayor Bloomberg’s plan seems to be falling off in Manhattan, in particular. City Room notes: "Manhattan voters, who supported congestion pricing by a margin of 54
percent to 36 percent in Quinnipiac’s last such poll, in August, are
just about evenly split, with 46 percent supporting it and 47 percent
opposed."

The other boroughs break down like this:

  • 65 – 29 percent in Queens;
  • 63 – 31 percent in Brooklyn;
  • 70 – 24 percent in The Bronx;
  • 63 – 34 percent in Staten Island.

While the news is sure to be spun by opponents as a definitive upsurge in
opposition, last August’s Q-Poll came in at 57 to 36 — essentially the same
as today’s when you factor in the 3 percent margin of error. And, as always, it is worth noting that prior to the implementation of Stockholm and London’s congestion pricing systems, polls showed opposition as high as 80 percent. After the implementation of both of those cities’ congestion pricing systems, public sentiment turned around almost immediately as people enjoyed the benefits of reduced traffic.

Still, advocates would be wise not to pretend that these poll numbers are good news. Rather, we ought to be asking why it is that support is dwindling for a transportation policy that would benefit 95 percent of New York City workers who commute into the Central Business District. Aside from the fact that car culture is absurdly powerful and imposing a new fee on New Yorkers is always going to be a tough sell, I’ve got some ideas:

  • The MTA’s refusal to link congestion pricing to fare hikes has been devastating. Poll after poll shows New York City voters would support congestion pricing if it were used to prevent bus and subway fare hikes. The MTA, however, insists on keeping the fare and toll hike discussion on a completely separate track from Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan. Congestion pricing could provide the MTA with a steady source of revenue and bonding for decades. It’s the most important transportation policy reform since the formation of the MTA itself in 1968. The MTA needs to snap out of its bureaucratic inertia, look beyond its short-term bottom-line and make the connection.
  • City Hall’s political operation is nowhere to be found. New York City has $300+ million in immediate bus improvements hanging by a thread. If congestion pricing is rejected, that federal money is gone. You’d think that the powerful Transit Workers Union and a few hundred thousand outer borough bus riders would be interested and could be organized to rally support for the Mayor’s plan. But that’s a lot of work and no one is doing it. To the contrary, Mayor Bloomberg has been antagonizing the transit workers lately. These guys could be congestion pricing’s best political foot soldiers but they’re standing on the sidelines.
  • Institutional dysfunction in Albany makes good policy-making virtually impossible. So, where has Governor Spitzer been on this issue anyway? Oh, right, when not squandering his own political capital he’s been trapped in the StoneZone, busy defending himself from Senate Leader Joe Bruno’s political goon squad and freak show. Meanwhile, the cowardice among state legislators representing districts with low rates of car
    ownership, crushing traffic congestion and heavy transit dependence is
    simply staggering. Why is it that not a single state legislator from Lower Manhattan or Downtown Brooklyn has been willing to stand up and say that Mayor Bloomberg’s pilot project is, at the very least, worth a try? How has the New York City Assembly delegation ceded transportation reform leadership to Richard Brodsky, an Assemblyman from the car-dependent suburbs? Read former State Senator Seymour Lachman’s book, "Three Men in a Room" for some answers to these questions. Albany needs to be blown up and rebuilt. When is the next Constitutional Convention again?
  • Felix

    The incompetence in selling this plan and organizing people around it has been stunning.

  • Lew from Brooklyn

    Aaron, And you guys think politicians spin the news!

    Just checking back in.
    Lew from brooklyn

  • Larry Littlefield

    The state legislature, however, is on the hook if they turn congestion pricing down.

    We are facing a crisis in transportation finance. Turn down congestion pricing, and everything that results could be blamed on Silver, Brodsky etc. — even though CP couldn’t possibly raise enough money to offset the diversion of tax dollars and “save the fare” nonsense since 1995, and the resulting borrowed billions. It is a drop in the bucket.

    Silver, Brodsky at all know this, which is a reason for all the posturing. The know that in return for being allowed to be MTA officials, those officials won’t hit back and expose the politicians.

  • Nicolo Machiavelli

    There has been a big change in Albany because of congestion pricing, three men in a room is now four men in a room. And, thats not counting Doctoroff.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Right, just because CP goes down doesn’t mean nothing has changed. It may return when the SHTF under a new Mayor, when people can’t just yell “out of touch billionarie.”

    In the meantime, as I’ve said, if we aren’t going to do anything to discourage driving, and traffic will be at the maximum level drivers can stand, then at least reallocate street space away from the cars.

  • glennQ

    No surprise. Americans’ wallets are getting squeezed more every day, and we are tired of it!
    We will ALL pay the congestion tax, through the increased cost of goods and services. Don’t let the greedy politicians, and selfish activists fool you onto thinking such a plan is any more than an additional source of revenue for the government.
    How about we remove 90% of the taxis? That would be a major reduction of congestion… Not to mention inefficient Ford V8s! After all, most trips made in a cab could be made on mass-transit… How many deliveries now made by truck, can be made using mass-transit?
    Die congestion tax, die!

  • Mark Fleischmann

    Sure, let’s get rid of the taxis so old people can’t get to the doctor. And those bakeries in Queens delivering bread to restaurants in Manhattan — let them use the subway! BTW, as someone who uses cabs about three or four times a year to get to the airports, I’d be more than glad to pay a higher fare (especially when it’s business travel and my employer is picking up the tab).

  • glennQ

    Mark wrote: “Sure, let’s get rid of the taxis so old people can’t get to the doctor.”

    That is what the remaining fraction of taxis is for.

  • glennQ

    Mark wrote: “…as someone who uses cabs about three or four times a year to get to the airports…”

    Why are you using such evil Mark? There are mass-transit options to the airport?
    My guess is that you, like the vast majority, will usually choose the easiest method of travel… Cost be dammed. That is exactly my point as to why, at the current price-point, the congestion tax will result in no perceivable reduction in congestion or pollution.
    America is not Europe… Ask Renault.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Americans’ wallets are getting squeezed more every day, and we are tired of it!

    Damn straight! I’m tired for paying the upkeep of bridges I never use!

    If the drivers refuse to pay their fair share, I want those bridges taken away from them and returned to pedestrians and trolleys.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Why is it that not a single state legislator has been willing to stand up and say that Mayor Bloomberg’s pilot project is, at the very least, worth a try?

    At least two state legislators have. One is my Senator, George Onorato, and I’m very happy to have him:

    http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=18474877&BRD=2731&PAG=461&dept_id=574903&rfi=6

  • glennQ

    Mark wrote: “And those bakeries in Queens delivering bread to restaurants in Manhattan — let them use the subway!”

    Do you think that there would be any difference in quality and/or price of eating out (or everything else, for that matter), if deliveries were made by mass-transit?
    :rolleyes:

  • glenn,

    why would “we” pay more for goods and services?

  • glennQ

    Comment by Angus Grieve-Smith: “I’m tired for paying the upkeep of bridges I never use!

    If the drivers refuse to pay their fair share, I want those bridges taken away from them and returned to pedestrians and trolleys.”

    First, you DO ‘use’ the bridges, roads, and trucks… In directly, when you buy goods they provide! Imagine how much everything from milk and mattresses, to cous cous and condos would cost without trucks using bridges and roads! That is why our taxes are used for roads… Common interest.

  • glennQ

    Felix wrote: “glenn, why would “we” pay more for goods and services?”

    Increased costs would be passed onto customers.
    I admit that this is based on the theory that I subscribe… That the current congestion tax’s price-point is FAR to low to have any perceivable reduction in congestion.
    Why do you think the price-point is so low?

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    First, you DO ‘use’ the bridges, roads, and trucks… In directly, when you buy goods they provide! Imagine how much everything from milk and mattresses, to cous cous and condos would cost without trucks using bridges and roads! That is why our taxes are used for roads… Common interest.

    It would probably be a lot cheaper, actually, because we wouldn’t have let our freight rail network rust away.

    So that’s done now. You keep saying the same thing about trucks, and people keep giving you very good answers, like this one:

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2007/10/31/congestion-pricing-supporters-show-up-for-a-queens-forum#comment-39485
    http://www.streetsblog.org/2007/11/02/fact-check-congestion-pricing-is-not-a-regressive-tax/#comment-39635

    Even if you’re right and Eric Gioia is wrong, that means I have common interest with trucks. I don’t have common interest with Al from Astoria who lives a block from the N train but drives to Manhattan because he thinks he’s too good to ride the subway with his neighbors, or Betty from Bayside who can only afford her detached house and SUV if she gets to drive free over the bridge.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    I think price-point is not really the most useful economic term for what GlennQ is getting at. I think he is talking about elasticity of demand. It is hard to tell. Maybe that is what he is getting at.

    He might be right about demand being pretty inelastic at $8 per day. But for a baker sending a driver and truck (often with a helper aboard) from Queens to Manhattan the labor rate is probably around $40/hr. All congestion pricing has to yield in terms of productivity savings is about 8/40=.20 x 60min = 12 minutes/day / 8hrs = 1.5 minutes per hour. That is not a lot of savings. Even at that “price point” there is probably 1.5 minutes an hour savings somewhere in this plan just as it is warts and all. Lots of people who have to actually pay wages to people know the productivity values rolled into congestion pricing.

    1.5/60 is 2.5% well below the projected 6% that all they critics of congestion pricing cluck cluck about.

  • Mark Fleischmann

    GlennQ (response number 9) asked why I use cabs to get to the airport. It’s an excellent question and I’m sorry I left it unclear. I use cabs to airports because I have heavy baggage that I can’t get up and down stairways without hurting myself. When I’m not carrying anything heavy, I use the subways and buses, which is why I’m in a cab only three or four times a year. Regarding your response number 12, Glenn, if you were shipping tons of bread or some other product from borough to borough “by mass transit,” exactly how would you go about it? I sure wouldn’t want that job! Incidentally, I have lived without a car all of my adult life, and done so voluntarily and gladly, though I am a licensed driver and grew up in the heart of car country (NJ). I also support congestion pricing and even have the TA’s bumper sticker posted on the door of my apartment (“The longer I’m stuck in traffic, the more I like congestion pricing”).

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Glenn, if you were shipping tons of bread or some other product from borough to borough “by mass transit,” exactly how would you go about it? I sure wouldn’t want that job!

    In case it’s not clear, GlennQ does not think it’s possible to ship tons of bread by mass transit. It’s a reductio ad absurdum.

  • glennQ

    Comment by Angus Grieve-Smith: “I don’t have common interest with Al from Astoria who lives a block from the N train but drives to Manhattan because he thinks he’s too good to ride the subway with his neighbors…”

    What price do you think the city needs to charge to discourage this behavior?
    My point is that the proposed tax is FAR to low to effect congestion and pollution… Especially if bridge/tunnel tolls are deducted.
    Even if some do change their mode of transport, as roads become easier to travel, they become more attractive to drive on…
    I believe the answer is to improve the mass-transit experience enough to ensure it is the most attractive option. We need more carrot, and less stick from our government!

  • glennQ

    Comment by Angus Grieve-Smith: “In case it’s not clear, GlennQ does not think it’s possible to ship tons of [goods] by mass transit.”

    Not impossible… Cost prohibitive.

  • Wes Robinson

    The idea of congestion pricing will do less to reduce traffic than if the city enforced the rules we already have on the books. I am amazed how the population of the New York forgets we pay taxes to support our infrastructure then we also pay tolls to drive on the roads our taxes should be providing. We could eliminate all this by not allowing anything but delivery trucks to park on the streets in NYC. We could also ticket trucks who push out more carbon than is allowed. Congestion pricing is a fundraiser not a traffic benefit. Surely you know, we as residents of Manhattan, will not only pay to leave our city but business owners will push up prices in response. Its the way things work around here. Now look into history, when do tolls, fares and other services ever stay on par with inflation? As soon as things came out about congestion pricing the Port Authority raised tolls on the river crossing 30% to $8. If all of those in favor of the prices rising at such a rate could just walk into your boss and demand a 30% raise with out argument then perhaps I am wrong. But think about it, when did the MTA or Port Authority ever get shot down on a rate hike? The last go around the MTA got caught cooking the books and we still gave it to them. You are always best saying no to more money, you are going to pay it anyway, why vote it in?

  • Andrew

    Thank God Roger Stone and the Senate Republicans have exposed Eliot Spitzer as the heavey handed thug he is. Sorry but using the state police to spy on your opponents is a misuse of public funds and against the law. They removed Hevesi from office for less. Eliot Spitzer? JAIL TO THE CHEIF!

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Maybe Glenn, maybe if our system looked and worked like Germany’s we would flock to it. But to get more of that carrot you need a lot more bread. Germany does it with gas taxes, huge gas taxes. Fine with me, but that is not what is on the table though maybe it should be.

    It is clearly not a question of stop congestion pricing and the system will automatically become great. Congestion pricing is a proposal to raise funds and decongest the streets. Even after it goes down the funds still have to be raised to accomplish the MTA capital plan as it is. Then all the other funding plans have to stand up and take their turn. Hopefully, someone will stand up for increasing fuel taxes, someone else will take control of street space for mass transit from the single occupancy vehicles and maybe there will be lots of funds raised by policing bad driver behavior.

    I’m not holding my breath. I think the forces against congestion pricing will also array against these other alternatives. Only they will then have been empowered by their victory, probably electing a new Mayor Weiner by then and the new urbanist street people will be forced to retreat and realign.

    Weiner is a smart guy and his position on this has evolved as the debate has raged maybe it will continue to. Maybe he will be able to work Albany to increase the gas tax, reclaim street space, increase ferry traffic and police driver behavior. Still, I’m not holding my breath.

  • Chris H

    Sounds more like an “Appeal to Ridicule”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_ridicule than Reductio ad absurdum. A delivery vehicle is a method for the bulk movement of goods just like mass transit is a method for the bulk movement of people.

  • Chris H

    By the way, what form of text markup language is used for comments?

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    By the way, what form of text markup language is used for comments?

    You can use some HTML. In this case, blockquote:

    <blockquote>By the way, what form of text markup language is used for comments?</blockquote>

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    For links, use A:

    Sounds more like an <a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_ridicule>”Appeal to Ridicule”</a> than Reductio ad absurdum.

    becomes

    Sounds more like an “Appeal to Ridicule” than Reductio ad absurdum.

    A delivery vehicle is a method for the bulk movement of goods just like mass transit is a method for the bulk movement of people.

    I’d prefer to see a system with a lot more rail, transferred to small trucks and pushcarts at transfer stations and distribution centers.

    There is some (illegal) commercial cargo movement on mass transit, actually, and it’s a disaster. Have you seen those annoying door-to-door chochke salesmen that always block the subway doors with their huge cardboard boxes on wheelie carts?

  • glenn,

    Even if there was no reduction in traffic, are we talking real money in terms of price increases? Would my Manhattan doctor have to charge me an extra 30 cents for the a visit to make up for the $8 cost of driving in – assuming he saw 25-30 patients that day (a wild guess on my part)? Or what about the beer I had in a Manhattan bar recently? Would a two-cent increase in the price of a pint cover the charge ($40?) for a truckload of kegs?

    Goods and services purchased in the CBD generally aren’t cheap. I can’t imagine congestion charges would have a noticeable upward effect on prices, unless traffic reduction caused Manhattan’s real estate market to surge.

  • DW

    The powerful Transport Workers Union? Hardly.

  • glennQ

    Felix, I recommend that my clients list “Congestion Pricing” by name, passing along the entire fee, per visit, when servicing the zone. Some said they wouldn’t highlight the additional charge, but all agree that they would add it onto the bottom line.
    Remember to feel good about helping the transit system instead of complaining if you see the addition on your bill…

  • glennQ

    Comment by Angus Grieve-Smith: “I’d prefer to see a system with a lot more rail, transferred to small trucks and pushcarts at transfer stations and distribution centers.”

    Then you’d prefer a much less efficient system.
    Isn’t that the way NYC operated in the early 1900s?

  • nyc7

    GET OVER IT, CONGESTION PRICEING,IS DEAD AS A PUBLIC POLICY INIITIVE. IT IS TOO INTRUSIVE, COMPLICATED AND FAR TOO EXPENSIVE. RESONABLE ALTERNATIVES EXIST.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Felix, I recommend that my clients list “Congestion Pricing” by name, passing along the entire fee, per visit, when servicing the zone. Some said they wouldn’t highlight the additional charge, but all agree that they would add it onto the bottom line.

    Do you also recommend that right now they start listing “Congestion Cost” by name, passing on the total in wages and/or opportunity cost for the time that they and any drivers they have spend stuck in traffic?

    Then you’d prefer a much less efficient system.
    Isn’t that the way NYC operated in the early 1900s?

    Oh yes, because something we did in the past could never be more efficient than something we’re doing now.

  • Jonathan

    I agree with Felix and Angus. Glenn, do your clients now figure in the rising cost of gasoline into their prices? What about the jump in electricity use that comes with the switch back to standard time? Or the cost of the lost opportunity to work while their computer reboots after another “crucial Windows security update”?

    In my experience, businesses usually set prices to reflect local norms, not the actual cost of the service or materials provided.

  • glennQ

    Comment by Jonathan: “Glenn, do your clients now figure in…”

    All costs are considered.
    Margins remain mostly fixed, so additional expenses are passed on to the consumer.

  • Observer

    The mayor has an entire team (The Campaign for New York’s Future) pushing congestion pricing. Want to get CP back on track? The first step should be to replace those leading the Mayor’s group. Their leadership and tactics have been the subject of great criticism from Day One. Now we see why.

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