Queens Pricing Opponents Push a Fantasy Commuter Tax

Last week the Queens Civic Congress held an "MTA Capital Plan Forum," where members peddled their commuter tax revival plan to transit chief Elliot "Lee" Sander as an alternative to congestion pricing, which Sander says is vital to the future of his agency.

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To be fair, the QCC has promoted this idea for several years, long before pricing was introduced by the Bloomberg administration. Here’s the QCC in 2005:

Re-instate the Commuter tax after and dedicate this money for transportation infrastructure. If the proposal includes sharing the proceeds with our suburbs, it should pass in Albany. Let the ‘burbs keep what their residents pay; New York City will do well with wealthy out-of-staters who live across the Husdon, Connecticut and elsewhere. Double the former rate — netting $450 million to start, and reaching $1 billion soon.

But it’s easy to be cynical when the QCC suggests the city, or the MTA, abandon congestion pricing to get behind the commuter tax. Setting aside the fact that it would do nothing to reduce congestion or VMT and has no environmental or public health benefit, Albany has already rejected it, and did so almost on a whim. Current state legislators Richard Brodsky, Denny Farrell, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver were among those who voted to repeal the tax in 1999.

These guys are still in charge, and no one at the capitol is talking about a commuter tax. There’s no reason to believe it would be voted back in. Not even Brodsky, who has elevated anti-pricing rhetoric to an art form, is suggesting a return to the commuter tax to alleviate congestion, preferring a carbon tax and license plate rationing instead.

Besides having no basis in reality, claiming "it should pass in Albany" is a weak nail on which to hang the future of public transportation in New York City. In that light, the QCC commuter tax push should be seen for what it is: another attempt to distract from a plan that would actually reduce traffic congestion while raising critical funds for transit.

Photo, of QCC President Corey Bearak and MTA Executive Lee Sander, by Bruno DeFranceschi via Queens Civic Congress

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