Brooklyn Pol: Let’s Charge $3 Per Amazon Package — And Other Ways to Raise MTA Cash

Make 'em pay, says Bobby Carroll. Photo by Gersh Kuntzman.
Make 'em pay, says Bobby Carroll. Photo by Gersh Kuntzman.

Assembly Member Bobby Carroll. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Brooklyn Assembly Member Robert Carroll launched a drone attack on Amazon and other online retailers on Monday, announcing a proposal to levy a $3-per-package fee on deliveries — with the money going to improve transit service.

Carroll (left) made his pitch via the Wall Street Journal, arguing that a per-package fee would discourage people from excessive online shopping, which would help local retailers while easing congestion caused by delivery trucks, which illegally park with near impunity.

He estimated the fee could raise $1 billion per year.

But that’s not all. Here’s a full op-ed from the Park Slope Democrat:

Last month the MTA board decided to postpone for now this year’s bus and subway fare increase. This is great news for the average straphanger, but with the MTA using its cash reserves to pay for its operating expenses if the legislature and governor don’t act fast your fare will soon increase and your service will begin to get even worse. If you think you are annoyed by weekend and late-night shutdowns and signal malfunctions now, wait until the subway apocalypse happens when cars that are 60 years old, switches that are 80 years old and substations that can’t produce enough power to run the system start to have catastrophic failures and are no longer able to be pieced back together.

The good news is with a little bit of political will and courage Albany can raise more than the $1.6 billion in annual direct revenue that the MTA needs to modernize our subways. A full $1.6 billion in annual revenue is the minimum amount that any state plan for funding the MTA raises because $1.6 billion is the current deficient projection for the 2022 MTA operating budget. Furthermore, the more direct revenue the state raises for the MTA the more likely we will be able to reduce fare hikes in the future while at the same time being able to modernize our bus and subway service.

Here’s how we get it done:

The first thing we must do is pass comprehensive congestion pricing with limited carve outs that charges drivers $5.76 when they enter and leave the congestion zone below 60th Street or when they use any East River crossings. This will raise the MTA $1 billion a year. It will have the added benefit of reducing traffic and car emissions by about 20 percent. This is good for our streets, good for our environment, and will get us the majority of the money we need to fix the MTA and save the fare!

Second, Uber and Lyft need to be regulated! We don’t need a hard or soft cap – just a daily licensing fee of $10 per day per app for all New York City-based drivers. So if you are an Uber or Lyft driver you will have to pay $10 fee when you log onto each app before you can start your day. With over 100,000 app-based drivers, this could raise almost a million dollars a day on busy days and will weed out bad drivers and disincentivize others who realize it is no longer worth driving for Uber or Lyft. Even with a reduction of drivers by 25 percent, this should still raise $100 to $150 million.

Third, Jeff Bezos, you don’t get off scot-free. The state should institute a shipping fee on all internet purchases from Amazon to Fresh Direct. Three dollars per order no matter how big or small. This will help small brick and mortar business, nudge people to stop being so lazy and get us a large sum of money to fix the MTA.

Fourth, sorry Manhattanites, no more free rides on garage taxes. Currently, if you own a car in Manhattan you get your monthly parking garage taxes waived — unlike drivers in the other boroughs. This is crazy and has got to go. We all need to sacrifice and having a car in Manhattan is the ultimate luxury, so you can pony up a little more. This will raise an additional $15 million annually.

Finally, we need to make sure the Taxi and For Higher Vehicle Surcharge ($2.50 for yellow cabs and $2.75 for Uber and Lyft for rides that start or end in the congestion zone) actually funds mass transit improvements. This will further reduce congestion and, frankly, you should pay more if you’re taking a cab in the most transit-rich place on earth! This fee should raise the MTA an additional $400 million a year.

All of this can be done by the budget deadline of April 1 — and if it is, we will get the mass transit we deserve, for a fare that stays the same while making our city more livable and our environment a little more green.

Robert Carroll represents Park Slope and Windsor Terrace in the State Assembly.

 

  • kevd

    Why just amazon and fresh direct? Are their packages somehow more congestion creating than other packages?
    How about parking reform so that street spaces aren’t given away for free?
    And the commuter tax – which would bring in $922 Million/year

  • AstoriaBlowin

    From Amazon to Fresh Direct, he’s using it as shorthand for all online shopping/deliveries. I think it would make a big difference. It would also help if we revised the zoning code to remove residential only neighborhoods with no retail. I am a 20 minute walk to the nearest supermarket because everything around me is 100% residential.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Sounds like bullshit to me.

    Let’s have an honest discussion about where all the existing revenues are going, due to the decisions of those who appointed him, first. Before we start talking about how to screw later born and future New Yorkers.

    He’s there to avoid that discussion. But until it occurs, they are going to keep right on taking. Federal, state and local, public and private, across the board.

    We need a “truth and reconciliation commission.”

  • Peter Chowla

    Per package charges would require cooperation from Amazon for enforcement – good luck. Another option would be to use a congestion charge that is larger for larger vehicles. So that FedEx/USA/FreshDirect trucks are paying $100 for entry into the the city (for parts of city with crowded streets. That would provide incentives for those companies to find better ways to deliver (bikes, small electric vehicles, etc).

  • Joe R.

    This is one of the dumbest, most regressive proposals yet but considering the source sadly I’m not surprised. NYC Democrats have penchant for enacting stupid laws, and an even bigger penchant for taxing and regulating everything under the sun. I don’t know where to start but here goes:

    Third, Jeff Bezos, you don’t get off scot-free. The state should institute a shipping fee on all internet purchases from Amazon to Fresh Direct. Three dollars per order no matter how big or small.

    Great way to screw over the middle class, not Jeff Bezos! He’s not going to be paying the tax, or reducing shipping charges by $3 to compensate, we are. In fact, I usually choose free shipping with Amazon so there’s no shipping fee to reduce by $3. Between eBay, Newegg, Amazon, and other assorted online retailers there are times I’ve had ten or more packages delivered per week. Not lately because my income is down, but that represents $30 or more per week, $1,500 per year, out of the pocket of a person who can ill afford it. The rich and upper middle classes aren’t the only ones buying stuff online. Lots of poor people do as well.

    This will help small brick and mortar business, nudge people to stop being so lazy and get us a large sum of money to fix the MTA.

    If there were local brick-and-mortar businesses selling the stuff I want at comparable prices I would certainly already be buying from them. The hard fact is 99% of the stuff I get online isn’t even available locally. All I have local to me are grocery stores, banks, chain-store pharmacies, restaurants, dollar stores, fast food chains, etc. I already buy things from them when the price is right. Thanks to high rents leading to the demise of oddball mom-and-pop stores I’m never to going to be able to get most of the things I buy online locally. For example, I used to go to Canal Street to buy all sorts of things not available elsewhere at surplus stores. All those stores turned to generic electronics and other types of stores long ago. Besides that, being home bound taking care of my mother I simply can’t get out for long shopping trips any more.

    There are two ways to help the MTA without hitting the poor and middle class. One is to institute fees and taxes which mostly hit the wealthy. Fees on car/Uber use in Manhattan do that. The $10 fee on the driver is stupid. Make it a $5 fee on the passenger. That will make Uber a less attractive option for people.

    The second way is to force the MTA to get its financial house in order. I don’t doubt the MTA needs more money, but it can generate a lot of it by cost cutting. There’s no reason capital projects should cost 5 to 10 times what they do elsewhere. There’s no reason the MTA should continue to let labor unions dictate staffing requirements or whether or not the MTA can hire outside personnel.

  • Jeff

    I will support this if and only if there is a $3 fee on using a personal vehicle to do shopping of any kind.

  • Joe R.

    Even if there’s local retail, that doesn’t imply they’re selling the products you get online. Can I get electronic parts or various surplus items at local retail, for example?

    I might be OK charging for stuff like Fresh Direct deliveries and other types of merchandise which is available locally but that would be a logistical nightmare figuring out who pays the tax and who doesn’t.

    It’s a stupid idea exactly because it’s going to hit the poor and the middle class, not just the rich. If he can’t see that he’s blind. People might be paying a little less in fares but the city will taking it out of the other pocket when they buy online.

  • Joe R.

    And think how many car shopping trips deliveries get rid of. If anything, we should be encouraging people to get items delivered, not the other way around.

  • Fool

    Focus on the damn costs!

    Why is this city held hostage by civil servants?

  • Larry Littlefield

    Well, at least he’s talking about raising regressive taxes, progressive taxes, AND fees, to go along with service cuts and not using the money for capital expenditures. That’s progressive..
    But not taxes on retirees, and those now in Florida.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Because Washington is held hostage by the rich, and fairness requires that someone else get a piece of the serfs too?

  • Pietro Gambadilegno

    He is calling for a state-wide fee on deliveries, and this would actually increase automobile use. For most people in the state, the alternative to getting a package delivered is to get in your car and drive to the store.

  • kevd

    So all deliveries?
    What if my grandma sends me some cookies via UPS?
    $3 for that, too? Nana’s cookie delivery causes just as much double parking as ordering cookies from Amazon or fresh direct or cookies.com does.
    This seems like a cop out by a politician who doesn’t want to price curbside space appropriately, or (gasp!) add delivery zones where there is currently free, long-term personal vehicle storage.
    And yes, more mixed zoning would be a plus. Its an advantage most of this city already has.

  • Oranjello

    If you have to drive to get something you will have to patronize local businesses. Also people can buy in bulk rather than getting items one at a time.
    I’m into it.

  • Andrew

    I will support this if and only if there is a $3 fee on using a personal vehicle to do shopping of any kind.

    This. Except $3 is nowhere near enough – a delivery truck carrying shipments to numerous people is far more space-efficient than a personal car.

    The fundamental source of most of our transportation challenges is that there are far too many private cars consuming far too much space. Blaming it on Amazon or Uber or cyclists is missing the point entirely. Price the streets correctly and it will become much easier for everyone (including Amazon, Uber, cyclists, pedestrians, transit riders, and even motorists) to get around the region.

    As for transit funding, Cuomo linked congestion pricing to MTA funding solely so that he could claim that he’s funding transit adequately without actually providing any funding for transit. Congestion pricing can be set up to provide some of the necessary funding for transit, but it cannot possibly provide anywhere near enough and nobody should expect it to provide anywhere near enough. Don’t fall into this trap. If the state wishes to collect tax revenues from New York City residents, the state also needs to provide adequate funding for New York City Transit, without gimmicks.

  • Reader

    What “limited carve outs” does Carroll propose? The real fear with congestion pricing is that once we make exceptions for one group of people it will be death by a thousand cuts and everyone will want one. There shouldn’t be exceptions for anyone.

  • Andrew

    If you have to drive to get something you will have to patronize local businesses.

    Unless you drive to a big box store, perhaps even one outside the city.

    Perhaps you’re forgetting that most New York City households don’t own cars. For us, purchasing something too large to feasibly carry home means either delivery (which is far more space-efficient than driving a personal vehicle) or taxi/TNC (which is no more space-efficient than driving a personal vehicle while it is being used but is far more space-efficient while other people ride it instead of its staying parked). The New Yorker who stores his personal car on the street for free most of the time and occasionally uses it to go shopping is far more of a resource-hog than the New Yorker who doesn’t own a car and makes occasional orders from online retailer. Why would we encourage the former over the latter?

    Also people can buy in bulk rather than getting items one at a time.

    Shipping fees charged by most online retailers already incentivize buying in bulk. On the other hand, some of us don’t have unlimited storage space – buying in bulk only makes sense up to a point.

  • Rider

    The per-package fee is either a satirical or infeasible idea, for the reasons pointed out in the comments below. But its unworkability points to why congestion pricing makes sense. Just charge the trucks directly for clogging the city streets. And the cars, while you’re at it.

  • mfs

    I used to think this was true but given how ubiquitous this has become to replace even walking shopping trips that I might have done in the past, I’m less sure of this now. I’d like to see this studied in the amount of detail that the ride hailing impacts has been studied.

    That said, $3/package is way way way too high to outweigh the congestion impacts of long-distance and last mile consumer package delivery. That’s at least $1k per last mile truck. It’s probably something under 25 cents per package, adjusted for volume

  • Wilfried84

    Amazon Prime surely does not. Their free shipping encourages ordering whatever little thing whenever you feel like. Even when I order several things at one time, they often come in separate packages. Once, they even gave me the option of choosing separate shipments, or all in one, but arriving a day later. I was in no rush, so I opted for the latter. And, the stuff arrived a day later, but in two separate boxes, that I think arrived at different times.

  • Joe R.

    Sure, delivery absolutely has replaced a number of walking shopping trips for me but in many instances it’s more a case of I wouldn’t have bought the item, rather than I would have driven to buy it (assuming I owned a car and have a driver’s license, neither of which are true). Or I could look at my brother who does drive. Most of the items he gets delivered are things not available at local brick-and-mortar stores. End result is the same. Without delivery he just wouldn’t have purchased them.

    Basically, I think on balance delivery has increased the number of odd/impulse buys (adding to net traffic) but at the same time decreased the number of car trips for staple items (subtracting from net traffic). I don’t know the effect overall, either, but it certainly merits detailed studies.

    Also, far easier to just charge trucks a congestion fee if they’re delivering in Manhattan. They will pass on their costs to the end user, but per package we’re probably talking pennies. I’m fine with paying a few cents more per delivery, but $3 per package is just over the top. If the city is going to do that, I might suggest instead to charge the senders of junk mail $1 per piece since DSNY ultimately has to pick up that stuff. That at least will have the positive result of people getting a lot less junk mail.

  • Joe R.

    I thought the cookies.com part of your post was satire but such a site really exists. LMAO

  • kevd

    it was a joke, which I then realized is obviously someone’s url – probably for cookies.
    Then I hoped it was some kind of weird porn or something.

  • kevd

    if only there were some way to charge for both in one fell swoop….
    hmmm…..

    how about we charge fare rates for curb side vehicle storage instead of giving it away for free?

  • kevd

    but its politically expedient to pretend it amazon’s fault.
    because amazon doesn’t vote and all those people keeping their cars on every street in NYC do.

  • kevd

    I have 1/2 way decent hardware store 5 min. from my Apt. (by foot).
    About 1/2 the time I go in there they don’t have what I need or don’t know what I’m talking about and I had to order it on line.

    After doing that 5 or 6 times I just starting ordering stuff on line first to not waste my time.

  • kevd

    Its a stupid idea because it is free parking (and too few loading zones) that are the problem – not what is being delivered.

  • Sasha

    Let’s charge everyone for breathing air in New York City, so we can put more money into the bottomless pockets of MTA unions and contractors.

  • djx

    This.

    They’re using free parking (almost free – tiny fines compared to their business) to help subsidize their cheap/free shipping costs to undercut local businesses.

  • Joe R.

    Good example of that today. I needed a drive belt for my washing machine. I could have went to Home Depot and hope they have it, or maybe try to find it at a local hardware store. Stores come and go so much I actually had to check Google maps for local hardware stores. The nearest hardware store to me is well over a mile away. My options were to call them, go pick it up if they have it, hope their staff knew it was the right belt, or just order it from eBay. Much easier and less time consuming to do the latter. A few minutes comparing sellers, on the way for $5.95 plus taxes shipped. I’ll bet the hardware store would have charged at least $20, if they even had it. That’s not even counting the time to call them, or the 40 minutes walking there and back.

    As much as I might want to patronize local stores, when it takes a lot more of my time and money to do so I just can’t. All the more so when you might have incompetent staff who tells you they have an item, you waste time going there, and they don’t. That happened all the time when my only options were the yellow pages and phone.

    IMO most brick-and-mortar stores will be obsolete within a decade. The smarter ones are already doing a majority of their business with online customers.

  • Joe R.
  • kevd

    “IMO most brick-and-mortar stores will be obsolete within a decade. The smarter ones are already doing a majority of their business with online customers.”

    If I could see exactly what they have, order it and pick it up that day.
    I’d go to the local hardware store almost every time.

  • Altered Beast ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    I can just imagine this as prohibition times but instead of alchohol it’s amazon packages.

  • Joe R.

    For me it depends. If I need the item right away and the price is within shouting distance of ordering it online, I’d buy local. If buying local costs less than online, I’d buy local. On the flip side, if I’m in no hurry for the item, and it costs less online, that’s the way I’d go.

    If brick-and-mortar stores are doing most of their business online, and they’re price competitive with other online retailers, they should be able to offer walk-in customers the same prices.

  • Janet Liff

    I love the idea of adding a surcharge to Amazon and Fresh Direct. It’s always seemed perverse to me that getting food delivered is cheaper than going to the store. Getting groceries delivered is a luxury.

  • Ishamgirl

    I agree with #4. My boss lives in a $4mm apt. and doesn’t have to pay tax on his garage. Something here is missing. But those living north of 96th Street and the outer-boroughs (read….less expensive areas) have to pay it.

    While we’re talking about taxes – how about ending this tax abatement bullshite all these new buildings are getting? My property taxes have continued to go up every stinking year but million/billion dollar building and apartment owners are getting a tax break.

    There is a ton of money to be found but if this city keeps handing out freebies to anyone who wants it, nothing is going to get FIXED.

  • Ishamgirl

    If most NYC households don’t own cars, why are our streets flooded with parked cars?

  • Ishamgirl

    Another idea. Cars with out of state plates can no longer park on ANY NYC street unless they apply for a permit or they put in a garage. Too many residents use out of state addresses to save money on their insurance. I’m sick of seeing plates from PA and FL clogging our streets while residents who are paying the high premiums can’t find parking.

  • Ishamgirl

    Dems don’t give two flying effs about the middle class of NYC. They would love to see us leave.

  • qrt145

    Because cars are big and the city is densely populated. Consider a typical building might have ten apartments but yet the curb space in front of the building is only enough for a couple of cars. Of course, it depends on the neighborhood.

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