Who Are Anti-Pricing Pols Really Looking Out For?

Responding to some politicians’ claims that congestion pricing is a "regressive tax" that would impact "working stiffs" who must drive to their jobs, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and the Pratt Center for Community Development have compiled data, broken down by district, showing that the vast majority of commuters in New York City and surrounding counties would not be affected by a congestion pricing fee. In district after district, the stats show that most people either work somewhere other than the proposed pricing zone or commute to the CBD via transit, carpooling or other means. Fact sheets are available for City Council, State Assembly and Senate, and US Congressional districts.

Also included is a handy breakdown of the income differential between households that have a car (or cars) and those that don’t, again showing that car owners are usually significantly wealthier than their transit-dependent neighbors.

This data will be very useful to take your local elected official during the upcoming public hearings:

Council District 23

Councilmember David I. Weprin

Democrat Representing Queens

State Assembly District 81

Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz

Democrat Representing Bronx



The prevailing pattern holds true in anti-pricing Congressman Anthony Weiner’s district as well, where just 5% of commuters use their private vehicles to travel to the proposed congestion pricing zone.

  • This data should be passed on to Weprin & Dinowitz and other pricing opponents. I’d be curious to hear what they have to say…

  • Charlie D.

    Ah facts. Why are politicians so afraid to use them?

  • Dave

    Weprin, Dinowitz et al will cater to the very small but vocal percentage of their constituents impacted by CP unless they hear from the majority of their consituents in support of CP.

    I fear that a combination of apathy and the misinformation campaign by opponents of CP will silence that majority.

  • drose

    Thought it should be noted that this data comes from the 2000 Census, so it covers everyone in each respective district, not just a sample. These council members cannot wiggle out from under these facts; they are unimpeachable.

    And in case our elected representatives say that was seven years ago, and everything has completely changed since then, remind them that the census was taken in April 2000, at the top of the Internet bubble, when earnings and wealth in the city were at all time highs that have only recently been surpassed. Car ownership and income have not changed that dramatically since then.

  • JF

    I think it’s not quite as simple as that, Dave. After reading Stumbling on Happiness, here’s my current explanation for why so many outer-borough residents allow people like Dinowitz and Weprin to argue against their interests.

    I wonder how many of the 28.2% of Dinowitz constituents tell themselves every day, “If I win the lottery/get that promotion/finish school I’m going to have enough money to buy a car and drive instead of standing on this stinky D-train platform!” or “I’m so glad my daughter got into Science; when she graduates college she’ll get a job that pays her enough to be able to drive to work!”

    Never mind that they might not want to drive at that point, or that they’d probably be able to afford $8 a day. They’re still biased in favor of this imaginary richer version of themselves, and against the interests of the current working-class version.

    Congestion pricing threatens to take away that dream from them. Yes, it’s a stupid, selfish dream, and they’d probably just wind up screaming in backed-up traffic, but you can’t tell them that. And you can’t really get them to start dreaming “If only I write a letter to Dinowitz, my express bus will get to Midtown fifteen minutes quicker!” Because in their dreams they don’t need to take the express bus at all.

    The effects of congestion pricing will be dramatic and do a ton of good for the city, but they don’t capture people’s imagination. Nobody masturbates about having sex with someone who’s just like their last girlfriend but with more integrity.

  • Hilary Kitasei

    Dinowitz and his constituents are not just afraid of the increase in the cost of their occasional driving into the city (which would be small, given the offset of the bridge toll, soon to be raised to $5). The residents of Riverdale and Spuyten Duyvil are stacked in high rise apartments all along the Henry Hudson Parkway, which is slated to be the free by-pass. As readers of this blog know, I support congestion pricing. But I also believe that the best way to assuage the legitimate fears of the Bronx and Manhattan communities along the parkway corridor is to assure them that their communities will be protected by a landscaped buffer, with a greenway to make them walkable and bikeable. It is what they have been seeking for the last 6 years by nominating the parkway as a scenic byway. That process was underway, with the cooperation of the city and state agencies, when the City suddenly pulled out. Despite a resolution last month from the full Manhattan Boro Board, and appeals from both Bronx and Manhattan BPs, the city refuses to let it go forward. What are these communities to think is in store for them?

    As bicylists, you can empathize with what a hostile city feels like. Luckily, the city is no longer hostile to bicyclists, and is bumbling toward progress. But consider what residents along a parkway turning into an expressway feel like.

    Baffled by the city’s intransigence, I researched Eastern and Ocean Parkway’s landmarking and preservation back in the 70s and 80s. The efforts were also grassroots, sponsored by the Landmarks Preservation Commission and backed up by Mayor Beame and Koch, with little resistance from DOT. The communities along those Brooklyn parkways have benefited from the restored planting. The city benefits from having major cultural and recreational destinations connected by bike paths. I ask, what is different about the city today that this is now impossible?

    Today, Adam Honigman, an activist community gardener, was eulogized at Temple Emanuel by Christine Quinn, Parks Boro Commissioner Castro and others who recalled his fighting spirit. Adam committed suicide at 55. I think his fighting spirit was finally crushed by this city he loved.

  • Claudia Peters

    So, if most folks are outside the “CPD”, how will congestion pricing help them anyway? Will traffic on the BQE, or Van Wyck, or Flatbush Ave, eg be ANY better (especially Flatbush, if Ratnerville gets built)

    And why do Manhattanites get a 50% subsidy again? They have the most public transporation options of anyone!

  • JF

    Claudia’s question seems to be the biggest source of misunderstanding about the congestion pricing plan. Nobody seems to get that by charging to get to the place that everyone is trying to get to, you reduce traffic all around it.

    Streetsblog has done a number of posts highlighting various difficult concepts of the congestion pricing plan. Can someone please write something that gets this point across?

  • JF

    Hilary, I’ve got a lot of respect for you and for your cause. I’m glad to see it getting press. But what if tomorrow the Mayor said, “Hey, we’re making the Henry Hudson Parkway a Scenic Byway, and tomorrow we’ll start tearing up lanes and putting in landscaping and bike paths”? I don’t think that Dinowitz and the Riverdale Press would all of a sudden say, “Well, all right then. Bring on the congestion pricing!”

    Based on their half-truths (45% of commuters from Riverdale may drive, but only 5% of the commuters in Dinowitz’s district drive to the Manhattan CBD) and blatant racism (“I want the noisy, polluting, dangerous cars to stay in the valley with the Puerto Ricans”), it’s pretty clear that Dinowitz and the Riverdale Press are using your campaign as another excuse to oppose congestion pricing. I support your goals wholeheartedly, but I don’t think they’ll diminish the opposition to pricing.

  • Dave


    I live in the CP zone and am pissed that I only get a 50% discount (as opposed to a 90% discount in London) off the CP price. I have been called elitist before but I pay more in housing, taxes, per-mile subway fares and parking fees than the average New Yorker. Enough is enough; I should not have to pay $4 to drive a few blocks from my apartment while other New Yorkers living outside the CP zone do it for free.

    I suffer more from traffic in front of my apartment 18 hours a day than an outer-borough resident does. I suffer as trucks rumble through Manhattan to toll-shop because Staten Islanders don’t get how two-way EZ-Pass tolls would benefit the city. I pay the same to go a mile in the subway as someone from Far Rockaway does to get to midtown. I pay $400 to park my car in a garage because my streets are filled with cars registered out-of-state and filled with placard abusers. I am pobably more likely to die in an ambulance which sits in traffic on the way to a hospital (seriously…aren’t there statistics on this?)

    You are probably one of those opposed to East River tolls as elitist and dividing the city yet you complain about my discount to drive down the block or to leave the CBD. And let me remind you that the city is set up to bring people into the CBD rather than to leave it (BTW I am still amazed that with the CP debate going no one has thought to stop the contra-flow lanes at the bridge and tunnel crossings..even the free ones…it drives me CRAZY that the city actively complains about congestion but still facilitates more people driving into the city every work day)

    So I am a Manhattanite and pissed that people think that we are getting a deal with a 50% discount off CP which is just another way for me to subsidize people in the outrer boroughs who will pay nothing to do what I will pay $4 top do. What do I want to see, you ask:
    – Immediate end to contra-flow measures
    – Permit parking city-wide (for city residents and for cars registered in the city….a snap to implement as the process is in place for reductions in parking garage taxes for city residents)
    – Placard reform
    – Tolls on every entry into Manhattan 6AM-6PM (meaning Harlem and East rivers) with no fee for leaving Manhattan at those hours
    – Two-way tolls reinstated at every crossing (with EZ-Pass a snap)
    – An end to CP as currently envisoined; keep it at the tunnels and bridges instead of cluttering the landscape with hideous readers all over Manhattan

    Flame away…but I am surely not the only Manhattan resident to feel put upon by transportation policy in thsi city….