De Blasio’s Class Consciousness Apparently Doesn’t Apply To Congestion Pricing
New York City mayor Bill de Blasio loves to talk about raising taxes on the wealthy as a means to finance public services. But recent events show that this impulse is apparently selective. Governor Andrew Cuomo has resumed the push for congestion pricing in Manhattan – tolls with the explicit purpose of managing traffic congestion – as a means of raising revenue for the city’s imperiled transit. While not a silver bullet for infrastructure woes, it is a tried-and-true, user-pays method of keeping automobile traffic manageable in dense urban areas. It’s also politically risky, thanks in large part to attitudes espoused by the mayor himself.
While telling reporters that he would “keep an open mind”, de Blasio nonetheless rejected congestion tolling on the grounds that new fees would not be “fair” to drivers, instead pushing the more politically-popular “millionaire’s tax” to finance transit upgrades.
Putting aside the income redistribution debate, congestion pricing in Manhattan would likely impact wealthier commuters. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign notes that, as of 2000, few commutes into the area where congestion pricing was last proposed are made by single-occupancy vehicles, and median incomes for car-owning households are above the median incomes in each borough. Which side of this debate would de Blasio land on, then, if he really favored helping lower-income commuters?
Ethan Finlan is a writer and sketch comedian based in the Boston area.