Taking the E-Z Way Out
March 24th, 2008

Correction: The people who run E-ZPass tell us that we (and apparently Transportation Commissioner JanetteSadik-Khan) are wrong about E-ZPass requirements. They say customers can use cash to get an E-ZPass at one of three walk-in centers in Queens, Staten Island and Yonkers. For more information, they advise going to “Frequently Asked Questions” on the MTA Website, visit E-ZPass, or call 1-800-333-TOLL (8655). This item now reflects that correction.

(More from the City Council’s hearing on congestion pricing.)

While experts debate how much a congestion fee would cut traffic and air pollution, one thing does seem certain: It will boost EZ-Pass usage. Under the plan, users of the pass pay a congestion fee of $8, while those without the electronic passes would pay $9. And while the E-ZPpass users have the fee deducted from the money in their account, those without the passes will have to figure out how to pay — and pay quickly The bill carries a $65 fine for anyone who does not pay a congestion charge within 48 hours of incurring it.

For now its not clear where or how they would pay the fee, though Rit Aggarwala of the mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning said the city will “set up a wide spread of opportunities,” including Internet payment, telephones payments and locations in existing stores.

The city wants pepole to get E-ZPasses. But whatever the merits of the E-ZPass, the preferential treatment given those who have them raises concerns about equity since occasional and low-income drivers may be less likely to have the electronic tags than more affluent drivers.

This worries a congestion pricing advocate who asked to remain anonymous. While opponents of congestion pricing have often charged the tax is another burden on the poor, proponents tend to dismiss this, arguing thatnot very many poor people can afford a car, gas and Manhattan parking fees. But the advocate said, “This $9 charge is the first time that people who said they are concerned about the impact on lower-income drivers of New York have an arguments on the merits because people who do not have an E-ZPass will pay an extra $1.

And given the confusion about whether to pay that extra dollar, many will probably rack up a lot of these $65 fees as well.

(For more on congestion pricing see Gotham Gazette’s “Breaking the Gridlock on Congestion Pricing” and The Council and Congestion Pricing:Part II.)

By on March 24, 2008, 9:06 pm
In category: Environment,Public Finance,Transportation | 5 Comments »

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5 Responses to “Taking the E-Z Way Out”

  1. Larry Littlefield Says:
    March 25th, 2008 at 9:42 am

    I have a Saturn station wagon that I bought new, with cash, in 1997. It is about the cheapest car out there, and the way I use it makes it cheaper still.

    I’ve kept it thus far for 11 years, and hope to keep it running at least another five. It has no air conditioning, a manual transmission, etc. We only drive about 6,000 miles per year, and not to work. We dropped collision insurance after four years — just liability — and we have one ticket between us. We almost never pay for parking — the car is kept on the street, and we do not drive it to Manhattan, we take the subway. And, of course, there have been no financing costs.

    Including the cost of purchase, insurance, maintenance, and gas, all adjusted for inflation into todays’ dollars, that car has cost well over $300 per month in last year’s money. For those keeping score that is $3,600 per year, minimum.

    The insurance alone is around $1,200 per year now and was much higher, adjusted for inflation into today’s money, in years past. That is, once again, with one ticket between us in the past 20 years, and zero accidents. And I had to switch carriers to get that rate.

    “In addition, an E-ZPass user must put down a $10 deposit for each E-ZPass tag and must keep money in the E-ZPass account. Clearly such requirements favor more affluent people.”

    ANYONE with a car in New York City is an affluent person. Period.

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