Congestion Pricing Is a Tax on the Wrong People -- AND A FRAUD.
I'm a resident in the "congested area" as well as a motorist, and have given much thought to the so-called congestion problem and the currently-offered cure: congestion pricing.
I have developed an extensive counter argument below, in 3 parts. The first part gives some basic facts about NYC; the second part shows the main causes of congestion and NYC's failure to deal with the obvious cures for congestion; and the third part outlines some possible unintended consequences which may result from congestion pricing.
However, before going into these matters, I want to discuss some important matters: (i) the unconstitutionality of congestion pricing; (ii) how the voters of NYC can undo any congestion pricing plan imposed by NYC officials; (iii) the creation of 2 new types of jobs in NYC: Intersection Controllers and Intersection Ticketers; (iv) appoint an investigative commission to look into the causes and cures for traffic congestion in NYC; (v) a variant on "following the money" - by that I mean follow specific vehicles during their movement in NYC to actually estimate the amount of congestion they cause by the way in which they move, park, stand, unload, load, wait, etc.; and (vi) Why should the federal government offer NYC $350 million to impose a multi-billion "congestion tax" on motorists? What is the federal government's interest?
When I first heard about the possibility of congestion pricing for NYC, my first thought was that similar schemes for taxing outsiders have been held unconstitutional. I'm thinking of the New Jersey beach access cases, such as Borough of Neptune, 61 N.J. at 303, citing Brindley v. Lavallette, 33 N.J. Super. 344, 348-349 (Law Div. 1954), which held that it was illegal for towns, boroughs or villages in New Jersey to charge higher beach access fees to non-residents than was being charged to residents. The theory was that beach access is a public trust and that the public at large (not just local residents) have the right to use the beaches on equal terms, so that discriminatory fees to discourage non-residents were illegal.
You can view midtown and lower Manhattan as an economic and entertainment "beach" or "oasis" luring millions of visitors during prime hours each week, and that it is unconstitutional to charge them an additional fee to visit the oasis, while the persons already within the oasis are not required to pay the same fee. All this congestion pricing fee amounts to is a discriminatory tax on non-residents, essentially, which should be declared unconstitutional, as a denial of equal protection of law, and as an unreasonable (unconstitutional) burden on interstate commerce.
New York voters have done very little over the years to defend their interests against politicians who give away New York City and taxpayer's money to the real estate interests and other vested interests, mainly the interests who put up the huge funds needed to win election campaigns.
New York State is not fortunate to have much in the way of voter rights, particularly the rights of impeachment, recall, initiative and referendum, but cities and towns in New York State have the right to pass laws under Section 37 of the New York Muncipal Law (or as to NYC, sometimes under Section 40 of the New York City Charter). Thus, if voters in The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island and the upper part of Manhattan (North of 86th Street) feel that congestion pricing is outrageous and discriminatory against them, they can put a NYC proposed statute on the ballot during general elections and obtain enactment of the proposed statute by a simple majority of the voters. This process is called voter "initiative" to enact legislation, and it is a most powerful weapon for voters. I wrote the petition for a current voter initiative to set up Commission to Investigate 9/11 with the power of subpoena, and to name me as the New York City Attorney General, to enforce the Commission's subpoenas and, quite independently, to finance the work of the Commission pursuing litigation for NYC, and to enforce the rights of New York residents, voters, homeowners, workers and small business persons at public expense, such as the right not to have their jobs sold out from under them and the right to acceptable air quality, and the right of 9/11 first responders to obtain appropriate relief. A copy of the petition is available at Website with Copy of Petition for 9/11 Initiative.
One of the most interesting things about this initiative process (similar to the "referendum" process in other states, including California), is how it contrasts with the process for electing candidates to public office. We know that candidates make promises, convince voters to vote for them, and then never fulfill or even try to fulfill their promises after they are elected. We are used to that, but fall for the same ruse over and over again. The difference with the initiative or referendum process is that if the voters vote for it, they get whatever it is they voted for! That's an amazing thing to happen in this era of wholesale voter fraud by the candidates and their handlers. Although you won't get lower taxes when you vote for a candidate who promises to lower your taxes, you and the candidate realize that this could be the case. The one candidate does not have the power himself/herself to lower taxes. It takes a cooperative effort. So the politicians when running for office cooperate with each other by lying all over the place about what they plan to do, and then when the election is over the winners then proceed to do almost anything but try to enact what they promised the voters.
With congestion pricing, we can overturn it at the ballot box, not by voting for a different mayor or city council membership, but by voting for an initiative which declares congestion pricing to be illegal or not to be used in NYC.
Also, we can do the same as to other rules and regulations which are detrimental to voters, such as the proposed rule that would require a video or camera team to have insurance (costing tens of thousands of dollars) if they set up to shoot on a public sidewalk or street for 10 minutes or more. This would prohibit anyone from obtaining pictures of disasters or police brutality, which perhaps is why the rule is being proposed.
Also, we can pass one or more NYC statutes to cure many of the government-created causes of traffic congestion. See the list below.
One last point before going to my list below. My car has been heating up because of getting stuck in traffic in NYC and I've had a lot of time to observe how some congestion could easily be eliminated. Just today, it took me 30 minutes to travel about 25 blocks heading South on Fifth Avenue, in the 50's through 30's, yet when I looked ahead I saw that there were no cars for about 6 blocks ahead. The reason for this is that buses, trucks, taxis and cars going cross town (from East to West or from West to East) were moving into the intersection and stopping there, so that the Southbound traffic (including my car) couldn't move.
All it would take is human beings to control the intersections (and have one or more other persons available at the intersection to issue tickets when appropriate or perhaps be able to impound the car for a penalty 1/2 hour or full hour). It is possible to stop vehicles from entering an intersection when it is clear that the vehicles have no room on the other side to get out of the intersection. Who would we get to do this, and what would be the cost? What is the cost, by the way, of not doing this?
The cost of this artificial traffic congestion we are experiencing is in the hundreds of billions of dollars, of pollution effects, higher gas prices, higher vehicle repair costs, asthma and other health related costs, and the waiting time (such as my waiting time of about one hour on Sunday, August 12, 2007). I am only one of 1,000,000 persons each day who have to wait an unnecessary hour or two by reason of the NYC "traffic congestion". Let's assume for the same of argument that we have 1,000,000 hours per day times 365 days per year, for a total of 365,000,000 wasted hours per year (times 2 for an average of two occupants in the car), which amounts to a loss of $100 per hour, or a total loss of $36.5 billion ($36,500,000,000).
Now, let's see who is available to do this work. There are about 10 avenues in Manhattan, and about 100 cross streets needing "intersection controllers" (a name I'll give to this new group of workers), for a total of 1,000 intersections (100 times 10).
At $10/hour per intersection controller, the cost would be $10,000 per hour, or $100,000 per 10-hour day, or 36,500,000, which is about 1/1000 of the loss-of-time cost, which seems like a pretty good bargain.
Is there anyone in New York who would like to get a job for $10/hour, especially as a "law enforcement official"? Many retired persons might like the job; many unemployed persons might also like the job; many persons who are losing their homes and who can't pay their credit cards might like the job; many students might like the job to be able to pay school expenses; many public-assistance recipients might like the work. And then we have our local courts pumping out jail sentences so that the upstates existing (and planned) jails will remain full, as NYC's constribution to the economic well-being of upstate NY, to help them pay the NYC congestion pricing tax to some extent. Why not use non-violent prisoners who have been sentenced by our local courts to do this job. We already have them emptying garbage cans in the area; perhaps we should stick a red flag on the end of their broom and convert them into Intersection Controllers, and leave the garbage pickup to the Sanitation Department.
Let's look at the cost and savings relating to use of a single Intersection Controller. If the Intersection Controller is paid $10 for one hour's work, he/she might be able to save the occupants of 50 cars (or 100 persons) an hour each of their time, for a saving of 100 hours of time. At $50 per hour in value, we can save $5,000 per hour in time at a cost of $10 in labor. If one ticket per hour is issued by the accompanying Intersection Ticketer (another type of job), for a fine of $100 (for blocking the intersection), such single ticket per hour (issued to the worst offender, and not intended to be a program to ticket everyone), would produce revenues of about $60 per controlled intersection in excess of the $20 labor cost (building in $20 for ticket non-payment and costs of administration of the ticketing process). Thus, the cost of eliminating or substantially eliminating perhaps the greatest contributor to the congestion problem would be less than zero (if you disregard the revenue NYC would lose from creating and maintaining the congestion problem).
Also, as a highly beneficial by-product, the intersection controller would be able to stop pedestrians from standing in driving lanes; and crossing a street when the light is yellow or red. In addition, the Intersection Controller would be able to speed up both vehicular and pedestrian traffic by disabling (or disregarding) the traffic lights and directing traffic using techniques designed to maximize the flow of both vehicles and pedestrians as to all directions of traffic.
New York Port Authority Should Immediately Implement at Its Intersections
The New York Port Authority should immediately implement this website's suggestion that Intersection Controllers be hired, for the intersections between the Lincoln Tunnel (or its approaches in Manhattan) and the various vehicle entrances to the Port Authority buildings between 8th and 9th Avenues, and 42nd through 40th Streets. It is outrageous that the NYPA does not stop the cars abd buses from blocking the various intersections, especially the one at 9th Avenue and 40th Street, and the 9th and 39th street approach to the outgoing Lincoln Tunnel.
Another thought. Why not have a task force on Traffic Congestion and invite motorists in to explain how they see congestion occurring and what they see can be done about it. Drivers in NYC, including myself, can see what is happening and we should be given a chance to be heard, and to recommend new rules to cure this "congestion", without imposing the odius congestion pricing tax on motorists.
Do we need to have bus tours adding to the congestion in midtown Manhattan? Do we need two lanes occupied by a truck hoisting a window washer? Do we need delivery trucks during the congestion period? Can't we tell people coming into Manhattan the best way to get to their destination (identified by a EZ-Pass type device which can indicate the vehicle's ZIP Code destination (and a printout at the toll booth telling the driver the best way to avoid congestion on his/her way to the destination?
One frequent way for police to solve a crime is to "follow the money". To some extent, congestion is caused by crime - the failure of drivers and pedestrians to obey rules designed to benefit the majority, beause of the immediate gain in saving of time and/or money resulting from individual drivers and pedestrians disobeying the rules. So, why not follow a number of these violators, to see how much each of them contributes to traffic congestion in NYC. This could show that we are attempting to penalize the wrong people.
We should actually follow (without disclosing this) specific selected vehicles during their movement in NYC to actually estimate the amount of congestion they cause by the way in which they move, park, stand, unload, load, wait, etc. I would take 3 specific Gray Line NYC Sightseeing Tour buses; 10 yellow cabs (i.e., cabs with medallions); 3 black cars (taxis licensed by the NYC TL&C without a yellow-cab medallion); 5 NYC buses (different routes); 20 large delivery trucks and 20 small delivery trucks (covering different industries); 3 pedicabs and 1 octopus bike used simultaneously by up to 7 peddle-pushers; 30 non-commercial, private vehicles and 10 private limousines; 10 police cars and 5 Cushman scooters (from different precincts); 6 NY Police Dept. towing trucks (from different areas or home bases); various construction vehicles such as cranes and materials delivery trucks; and 3 sign rigging trucks (from the largest sign rigging companies). The information to be collected should include alternatives that were available but not used by the vehicle driver being followed. Let the results be given to economists, business professors and business students to analyze what such information reveals about the causes and cures for NYC's "congestion" problem. We should be able to determine a substantial part of the causes and cures of NYC's "congestion" problem in this way.
The 8/14/07 New York Post, at page 2, in a story entitled "DECONGESTION! - Feds OK $350M for mass transit but tie it to midtown toll plan". What is the federal government's interest in having New Yorkers pay an increased tax? Why does NYC have to be bribed to impose the tax if the tax is so good for New Yorkers? The U.S. Department of Transportation is announcing the grant on the same day, in Washington, D.C. The grant falls short of the $536 million that Mayor Bloomberg sought from the Feds, but the $350,000,000 is amount is sufficient, according to the NYPost, to convince NYS lawmakers to approve the project.
Why do New York State lawmakers have any say in the amount of tolls on NYC's roads, and who gets this money? Does NYS take any part? If so, why and for what? The Feds apparently are insisting that there be an express bus lane built over the East River, according to one "source" (apparently in the federal DOT). The next step, according to the NYPost, is that a 17-member commission will study ways to decreate traffic, including congestion pricing. I hope they take a look at this website, because congestion can be eliminated in the same way that it is being caused, by NYC government action. Finally, the NYPost article states that the Commission's findings must be approved by the Mayor and City Council before boing back to the NYS Legislature for a vote by March 31, 2008. What would happen if NYC voters reversed the Mayor and City Council by passing a ballot initiative withdrawing NYC's approval for congestion pricing? See point 2 above entitled "NYC Voters Can Undo Congestion Pricing by Voter Initiative".
In answer to the question of why the feds are getting involved, my conclusion is that they are doing it for no legitimate reason. Or to put it another way, the federal government appears to be creating a means for consolidating into PRIVATE OWNERSHIP the northeastern corridor transportation and eliminate local and state boundaries and interests in this for-profit transportation grab. The Feds are merely acting for the private interests waiting to come in and own and profit from the consolidated transportation system. The Feds mislead the public by conveniently overlooking that there is no real congestion; it is congestion created by government to increase federal governmental authority over local and state interests, to be able to hand the transportation system over to private interests. The Feds will be as successful with regional transportation policy as they have been in trying to put New Orleans back together again after Katrina. The fact that Singapore and London have imposed congestion pricing doesn't mean we have to do the same in NYC.
For more information see Regional Planning Association Website, the Regional Planning Association functioning as a behind-the-scenes government.
Another Swindle similar to the "Security Prosperity Partnership of North America"
If you think that the present federal government is not attempting to give away your country to private interests, take a look at this "government" website created and owned by private, undisclosed interests: Security Prosperity Partnership of North America Website, the primary focus of which faceless group is to create, own and run the "The Trans-Texas Corridor of the NAFTA Super Highway", under construction now, part of a NAFTA super highway, running from Mexico, through Texas and north through states north of Texas, into Canada, as a privately-owned toll road, presumably being built with non-American (lower-cost) labor and materials, with the highway being owned by the King of Spain, Juan Carlos. For more information read Human Events Article by Jerome R. Corsi entitled "Texas Segment of NAFTA Super Highway Nears Construction".
For forther information see the Regional Planning Association's website at Regional Planning Association Website.
Incidentally, Rudy Giuliani (through his Texas law firm, Bracewell and Giuliani) is promoting the interests of the SSP. At Rudy Giuliani's Interest in the Security Prosperity Partnership, it was stated:
Guess who's company is involved in lobbying for the Texas segment of NASCO? Rudi Giuliani's Texas lawfirm, Bracewell and Giuliani! See their press release, http://www.bracewellgiuliani.com/ind...d_in_Texas.cfm. See also: http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/ar...TICLE_ID=55695
Now, that I've thrown out these ideas, here is more information about the alleged congestion problem.
There are 18,000 miles of highway with parking potential (after eliminating more than 1,000 miles of "arterial highways"). [See http://bikeroute.com/NBGBikingCities/NewYorkCity/NYCBiking.php] There is a potential, at 50% utilization, for parking to accomodate 8 million cars at any one time. In contrast, NYC maintains only 62,000 single-car parking meters.
There were 1,653,193 "standard series" (i.e, passenger-car) vehicle registrations in force during 2006 and a total of 1,833,370 vehicles of all types (including standard, commercial, trailer, motorcycle, moped, bus, taxi, ambulance, rental and farm). These are figures published by the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles.
About 310,000 cars (including taxis) come into the congested area of Manhattan each day through one of the free bridge crossings or one of the toll bridges or tunnels. An additional number of cars (guesstimated by me to be an additional 30% also come into such area, through the Bronx), for total of about 400,000 cars each day (including taxis). Taxis often make multiple trips, and Iím going to assume that 25% of the 400,000 cars are taxis, so that only 300,000 cars enter Manhattan each day for which parking is needed.
"There are over 2,000 garages and lots licensed by DCA in New York, and over 305,000 spaces." [http://webdocs.nyccouncil.info/attachments/60313.htm?CFID=2505020&CFTOKEN=99659943] I think it is a safe assumption to say that most of these 305,000 parking lot spaces are in the congested area. Letís assume 60%, or about 180,000 of these spaces. [The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs licenses parking lots and should be able to provide an accurate figure.]
With all of these facts, it seems to be simple to conclude that NYC could find ample parking and eliminate congestion without imposing the planned congestion pricing tax. The congestion pricing plan is actually a fraud. NYC has the ability to cure congestion in a variety of ways. I explain what these ways are in Part II below.
History of Congestion Pricing:
London - started at 5 pounds (@ $1.58 = $7.90), and now increased to 8 pounds = $14.64, with additional increases undoubtedly coming.
Effort by NYC to obtain $500 million federal grant, or so it is claimed. Who is the federal bureaucrat making such enormous decisions for the people of NYC? Or is NYC creating a false sense of urgency by getting a federal official to create a sham deadline for NYC action?
To place an unfair tax on motorists and consumers who would be most directly affected by the congestion pricing, through payment of the additional prices to enter NYC and to pay a higher amount for goods that are trucked in to mid-Manhattan. Also, the purpose is to drive middle class and lower-class residents out of NYC, and increase the occupation of NYC by the wealthy corporations and their officers, directors and employees, for whom the added expense would be a minor deductible expense.
Part II. - Numerous Ways to Cure the "Congestion" Problem without Taxing
The current proposal to adopt congestion pricing - $8 for cars and $21 for trucks -- estimated $500,000,000 per year - South of 86th Street between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Alleged Purpose: to reduce traffic in lower Manhattan; obtain up to $500,000,000 in Federal funds; and obtain additional revenues for NYC from the persons least able to pay, without calling such revenues taxes.
The causes of congestion should not be blamed on the motorists who drive to, from and within NYC. There are perhaps 70 to 100 other reasons, a number of which I outline below. By dealing with the problems below directly, we can get at the causes of congestion, rather than imposing a tax on motorists coming into NYC (similar to NYC's effort to tax commuters).
A.. Buildings/Construction (8)
B.. NYC Ė Failures - NYC Failures Having Greatest Impact on NYC Congestion (29)
C.. NYC - Failures - Lesser-Impact NYC Failures (4)
D.. NYC Ė Other (20)
E.. Cars/Trucks/Taxis/Pedestrians/Others (6)
Carl E. Person, LawMall Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org