NYC Car Commuters Are Wealthier and Cops All Drive to Work

Driver_Incomes.jpg

I’m not sure that this particular set of facts matters one bit to Traffic Mitigation Commission member Richard Brodsky, who claims to represent the little guy in the congestion pricing debate, but New York City’s Independent Budget Office released a report today demolishing the argument that pricing is unfair to the poor and working class (download it here).

"Commuters who use private motor vehicles to commute to the congestion zone," the IBO found, "are generally better off than other commuters to the area." The median annual earnings of motor vehicle users exceeded median annual earnings of other commuters by 30 percent — $51,021 for motorists versus $39,247 for other commuters.

Moreover, "Motor vehicle users were less likely to be in the lowest 10 percent of earners and more likely to be in the top 10 percent." Motor vehicle users also came from higher income households — "The median annual household income was $97,136 for those who drove to work in the proposed congestion zone and $75,550 for other commuters to the zone."

"These findings largely counter concerns that congestion pricing would disproportionately affect workers less able to afford additional commuting costs," the report concludes.
A Drum Major Institute study made similar findings earlier this year.

And who are these motor vehicle users? IBO found "striking contrasts between private motor vehicle users and other commuters." Motorists are "twice as likely as other congestion zone commuters to hold government jobs" — 19.5 percent versus 10.3 percent. About a quarter of these government motor vehicle users work in the police or fire departments. "Indeed, very few congestion zone commuters in these occupations took other forms of transportation," according to IBO. Educators represented another one-fourth of government employee car commuters, "although many other educators used alternative transportation."

Conclusion: "Commuters who use private motor vehicles to commute to the congestion zone are generally better off than other commuters to the area."

And in case you forgot, back in July, a Transportation Alternatives study found that Manhattan-bound
drive-to-work constituents in Brodsky’s Westchester district earn on
average $176,231 annually — the highest of any New York county in the metropolitan area. 

  • JF

    Two, there’s no alternate destination in case you want to go out after work.

    Presumably you can convince your co-workers to go someplace that’s easier for you to get home from by transit. What, you don’t live near transit? Well, that’s the real problem.

  • Jonathan

    Larry, I like the points that you’ve made. My take is that once you expand the club beyond the people at a single site, you decrease the utility. I don’t think too many people want to hitchhike home with a random stranger.

  • Jonathan

    JF,

    Presumably you can convince your co-workers to go someplace that’s easier for you to get home from by transit.

    I wasn’t thinking you would be going out with your buddies from the office. Maybe if you were going to a Broadway show after work you could get dropped off at the subway, but it’s an extra hassle.

    I understand from reading newspapers and magazines that young people in NYC often go out as many as three or four times during the week. Transit is much more flexible than carpooling if you are always going different places.

  • JF

    So should the TWU agree that when NYC transit does its “pick,” the desire to work near home should trump seniority?

    When the “pick” was invented, those were probably the only two possibilities. But now we have these fancy computers that should be able to balance commute with seniority.

    1. Compute a “transit commute difficulty” score for each employee-site pair, based on a system like HopStop.

    2. Compute a “preference” score based on each employee’s picks.

    3. Generate a scenario where everyone got their highest pick, based on seniority, and compute an aggregate score of everyone’s transit commute difficulty, and another aggregate score of everyone’s site satisfaction.

    4. Reassign the least senior employee to a more transit-convenient site, generate a new scenario and recompute the aggregate scores.

    5. Repeat step 4 until (a) the aggregate transit commute difficulty falls below a certain threshold or (b) the ratio of aggregate transit commute difficulty to aggregate site satisfaction reaches a certain threshold.

    It may not be as simple as the seniority system, but it still takes seniority into account.

  • JF

    I wasn’t thinking you would be going out with your buddies from the office. Maybe if you were going to a Broadway show after work you could get dropped off at the subway, but it’s an extra hassle.

    I understand from reading newspapers and magazines that young people in NYC often go out as many as three or four times during the week. Transit is much more flexible than carpooling if you are always going different places.

    Jonathan, I thought the problem we were trying to solve was this one, as posed by Anne in the other thread:

    1. Most people have a fairly reasonable commute from their homes to Midtown or Lower Manhattan.

    2. Most job centers outside Midtown or Lower Manhattan are fairly accessible from Midtown or Lower Manhattan.

    3. Many people who do not live in Midtown or Lower Manhattan have difficulty getting to job centers that aren’t located there, like Anne’s friend who commuted from East Flatbush to East New York.

    Larry’s carpool suggestion solves that problem: a co-worker from Sheepshead Bay can swing by and pick up Anne’s friend.

    If Anne’s friend wants to go to a Broadway show after work, or to catch a band on the Lower East Side, he can take the subway from the school into Manhattan, and then take the subway home after the show. It’s only the commute to and from school that’s a problem.

  • paulb

    I don’t see anything so wrong with Lew’s idea of a regional transportation component in the income tax. Maybe other taxes could then be lowered by some amount, and as many transportation related expenses–road and street and bridge maintenance, public transit–as possible financed only out of the revenue from the tax. Bureacratically, I’m not sure how well this kind of thing works. “Dedicated” tax streams tend to be raided for other purposes by the state legislature, I’ve heard. And New York State has one of the worst legislatures in the entire country.

    Also, don’t mix me up with that guy from Queens John Liu. Even with a tax, riders should still pay subway fares, parkers for parking, etc.

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