Make no mistake. Congestion Pricing is here. The Talking Heads are still wagging. The rules and rates will probably face new obstacles and legal challenges but the sensors, quietly in place, are already watching and waiting.
What you see below is not a truck clearance barrier, car charging station, or drone parade formation. Even now, Big Brother is gathering data and we are it. They will image your car and your license plate and anything else their sensitive cameras can detect. Is it only a matter of time before the data is used for crime solving? And then crime prevention?
Lastly, there's always that cutting edge, state-of-the-art, AI-masterminded Crime Prediction. That new digitally enhanced facial recognition, data-crunching, probability-munching algorithm that knows before you do what crime you may commit. Only kidding. Right? Still they can't help but invade what was once taken for granted as our personal space. The autonomy of being in your automobile will be a little less. Again.
|Above 61 Street, West Side
They hover above us, so shiny and new. They loom ahead like traffic lights that charge you to pass through an intersection. They don't blink red. They only blink green. Yours and mine. So let's just say it: drivers in the city must be able to afford it, right? After all, they own a car. The MTA would like us to assume such logic. Then we could reason that it is simply to tax the middle class driving public in order to improve service on our transit system. A large portion of the cleared funds will, no doubt, go to train and bus service, but Car Shares and bicycle rental stations, traffic enforcement cameras, employee salaries, anything and everything under the Transportation umbrella will likely be fair use of the new revenue stream. Beware the moment our city or state goes into an economic downturn, then this tax will go wherever the Mayor and Council deem worthy.
Of course, this new surcharge will also cut into the profits of taxi companies and NYC's billion dollar off-street parking industry, not to mention the multiple billions of dollars spent on automobile sales, parts, repairs, maintenance, insurance, registration fees, tolls, ticket revenue (and all it's enforcement and collection goods and services), etc. Many local brick-and-mortar businesses count on parking availability to increase sales. That's why the implementation of curb front parking meters can be so fervently contested in Community Board hearings. No worries, small businesses. Amazon or Door Dash can make up that difference (increased delivery fee added). The point is most of us will clearly be able to afford these losses to the local economy and tax base. Right?
What will happen to those businesses on the border of a congestion parking zone? Cross into a zone and be on the wrong side of the tracks. Will the garages and other businesses on the right side of the tracks have a new unearned advantage? Why did your favorite food delivery, just blocks away, become more expensive? Maybe right-sided businesses and residences will experience a real estate boom. Only, how crowded will those all important dividing streets and their subway stations be? Those sidewalks? Someone will tell us that all these factors have been carefully weighed and considered, but does that council member or MTA board member live or buy groceries in midtown, own a car, a small business? As government employees they may have to request a cost-of-living raise.
The most unfairly taxed is our commercial traffic. They have to pay even higher congestion rates (currently set at $24 - $36 compared to $15 for regular motorists). Only they don't have any other public transportation options. What does this mean for the prices of delivered goods in our beloved, but expensive Manhattan? They will be going up to absorb the new costs, of course. But will they only go up in congestion parking zones? So, isn't this really a tax on everyone?
Wasn't that the plan all along:
- years of redirected and increasingly restricted traffic flow,
- more and more bicycle lanes to promote our recommended mode of transit for the coordinated and uncoordinated, young and old, firm and infirm
- the Covid pandemic (has to be)
- massive midtown and downtown building construction
(and their approved environmental impact studies that project as acceptable the increased load on utilities, subways and traffic systems, human and automotive)
- NYC's vital tourism trade (It's what we do most)?
We have over crowded our midtown streets.