BY SEN. JOSE PERALTA AND COUNCILMAN MARK WEPRIN
No one wants to pay more in taxes, tolls or store prices. No one questions that the cost of living, working and operating a business in New York is prohibitively high. However, the traffic pricing proposal that some are quick to reject – the Move NY Fair Plan – would, in fact, reduce these costs, not increase them. The hidden but very real tax is the one we incur whenever we travel on a transportation network that is neither funded nor sensibly priced.
Systemic underinvestment in maintaining and expanding our transit and road infrastructure make trips unpleasant, burdensome and inordinately time consuming. Motorists in the New York metro region alone lose 40 million hours annually stuck in gridlock, which adds up to $2.2 billion in lost productivity – costs that are passed along to consumers as assuredly as some opponents of the plan fear the Move NY tolls would be.
Move NY is the most effective way out of this trap. With State and City leaders shying away from other alternatives to fund transit and road investments, the plan would generate a revenue stream that is both lasting and enables improvements that make the roads, bridges and transit faster, safer and fairer.
Since the mid-1990s, when government first retrenched on its obligations to the MTA, the agency has become increasingly reliant on fare-backed borrowing for its capital needs. The outcome is the seemingly never-ending cycle of fare and toll increases that has caused anxiety among commuters, and rightly so. To support its debt service, the MTA spends 17 cents of every operating dollar on bond payments. According to a study last October by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, fares and tolls would go up by an eye-popping 15 percent if the $15 billion hole in the upcoming capital program is plugged with more debt. This would be on top of the four percent fare and rate hikes already scheduled.
We all want a prosperous and sustainable future. To get there, we must embrace, not reject, the Move NY program. It will smooth out traffic flows, enable transportation investments that improve mobility and accessibility from the innermost to most isolated reaches of the five boroughs, and in turn hold the line on fares and tolls while slashing the time-draining traffic congestion that is the real threat to the city’s continued viability.
Senator Peralta represents western Queens in the New York State Senate. Mark Weprin represents eastern Queens in the New York City Council. Both were opposed to Mayor Bloomberg’s “congestion pricing” plan and past proposals to toll the East River bridges.