The Jersey Inequity
March 24th, 2008

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

If anything rankles politicians in one jurisdiction, it’s thinking that people in a neighboring jurisdiction are getting a free ride — at the expense of their constituents. So it is with what’s been called the “Jersey Inequity.” Because the congestion pricing proposal before the legislature subtracts tolls from the congestion fee — and sets the maximum that someone would pay to enter Manhattan at $8 a day — many people who cross the Hudson River will essentially get a free ride. The peak toll on those crossings is $8. To add to the frustration, the tolls collected go to the Port Authority — and not mass transit improvements.

Rit Aggarwala, director of the mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning, told the City Council that New Jersey commuters without E-ZPass would pay the entire congestion fee and those who pay the $6 off-peak bridge or tunnel toll, would still have to shell out a $2 congestion fee. But he conceded about one-third of Jersey commuters would escape the congestion charge entirely.

In a statement last week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg indicated the city would be amenable to solving this problem. Many city transportation advocates want to see it addressed as well. But at the hearing, Sadik-Khan seemed to back-pedal, telling council members it might be illegal for the city to have one fee for people coming from, say, Queens and another for people crossing the Hudson.

Expressing frustration, Councilmember Jessica Lappin said the administration had not been consistent in telling council members what the legal issue was.

But Aggarwala indicated the law might not be the only sticking point. “The other is a policy question of whether any special treatment is a good idea,” he said.

Lappin continued to press, adding, “Every other piece of the plan is behavior driven and this is not.”

(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, 8:02 pm
In category: Environment,Public Finance,Transportation | 4 Comments »

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4 Responses to “The Jersey Inequity”

  1. Ray Says:
    March 24th, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    Infuriating ignorance.

    NJ drivers have been paying a congestion charge to enter Manhattan FOR DECADES. The PA raised the toll recently to $8 for cash paying drivers 24 HOURS A DAY to fund its own extensive capital program.

    That capital program includes BILLIONS for NY, including: new Hudson River rail tunnel and eight new platforms on 34th street, significant funding for Moynihan Station West (which will benefit MTA Railroads), a new elaborate transit center at the WTC, and 800 brand spanking new PATH cars. Not to mention massive on-going expansion of JFK, LGA, Stewart Airport,etc.

    The real question is what are NJ residents getting out of their tolls? For DECADES 50% of PA tolls have gone to NY State (some argue MUCH more). And let’s be real, who’s been paying those tolls? Have New Yorkers been generating 50% of receipts? Not be a long shot.

    Let’s also add that the WTC was paid for with the good faith, backing and credit of PA river crossing revenues (supported by NJ drivers tolls)

    So who’s been getting a FREE RIDE?

    New Yorkers (and I am one of them) are arrogant. Plain and simple. Get over it New York. Time to start paying your own way.

  2. Larry Littlefield Says:
    March 25th, 2008 at 9:32 am

    (NJ drivers have been paying a congestion charge to enter Manhattan FOR DECADES.)

    Right. This is the NY special deal mentality — those who have a special deal have a “right” to it.

    Right now, retirement income is exempt from NY state and local income taxes. I imagine that if it were proposed that retired and working people were to pay the same tax on the same income, the seniors would complain because the tax on working people wasn’t going up too.

    And if the housing bust causes market rate rents to fall, those paying far less in rent stabilized units will also demand a decrease.

    Schools in the suburbs have been over-funded for years, with NYC schools under-funded. Yet as NYC school funding has risen, spending in the suburbs has risen as much or more.


    We have a state run by groups organized around unenlightened self-interest.

  3. ManhattanDowntowner Says:
    March 25th, 2008 at 11:44 am

    With congestion pricing, the toll bridge/tunnel crowd gets a “free” ride and everyone else pays. Pure insanity! What New York Councilmember in his/her right mind would support such an inherently unfair and unequal bill? We have to let councilmembers know they’ll lose voters if they do support congestion pricing.

  4. Susan Says:
    March 25th, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    The recent letter from 20 council members recognizes a basic inequity (one of many) in the congestion pricing plan: while NYC taxpayers who support the building and maintenance of our roads will pay this regressive tax, commuters who dont even pay a commuter tax any more, but use all city services, will get a free ride by deducting bridge and tunnel tolls. Thus, suburbanites are actually ENCOURAGED to drive under this plan, since it costs them nothing and their rides will be faster and easier thanks to removing city residents from their own roads. This cannot be resolved by having the PA kick in some extra money: in order to serve as a deterrant (remember, the primary purpose was to alleviate congestion and pollution, not just raise money) the same $8 toll must apply to everyone entering the zone. New Yorkers, after all, cannot deduct bridge and tunnel tolls from NJ Turnpike tolls. (Are tolls on one road deducted from those on another anywhere?) Exactly who is supposed to be representing the already maximally taxed residents of this city, the only ones stuck with both DOT maintenance costs and the full freight of this tax, among our elected representatives?

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