Congestion pricing is the law of the land. Come 2021, everyone will pay a fee to drive below 60th Street — that is, unless you get a coveted exemption. A six-person “traffic-mobility-review” board, named by the Metropolitian Transportation Authority, will determine who is special, including because of “hardships” and “public impact.”
The legislation itself exempts any “individual” who lives in the congestion zone and earns less than $60,000 a year.
Sure, maybe you’re the mythical $50,000 earner driving from the Lower East Side to Queens to work and wanting to drive back home. But by this logic, everyone who is doing the reverse commute — driving from Queens to work on the Lower East Side — deserves the same consideration. So no one earning under $60,000 should pay.
Who else? The Police Benevolent Association flags commuting police officers. Union chief Pat Lynch wrote recently that “first responders and other public employees in critical roles . . . shouldn’t have to pay a toll every time we report for duty.”
Fair enough. If we’re going to exempt police officers, though, we’ve got to do so for firefighters, sanitation workers and corrections officers, too. Do you want to live surrounded by garbage and fires, all thanks to the MTA?
What other government employees perform a critical role? Teachers seem important; the MTA surely doesn’t want to make Manhattan kids dumb. Public-hospital doctors, nurses, technicians and assistants are important; dumb and sick is even worse.
Government accountants, engineers, supervisors, managers — it’s hard to imagine New York City would spend taxpayer money hiring anyone who isn’t critical.
If the city would survive if such people stopped coming to Manhattan to work, the city — again, logically speaking — never would have hired them.
The mayor is a prime example: What would happen if he couldn’t ride in his car back to Manhattan from the Brooklyn gym?
So, let’s have an exemption for all public employees. But a private-school teacher is just as “critical” to his students as a public-school teacher, as is a doctor or nurse in a private hospital. A private-practice Manhattan psychoanalyst is critical to her patients, as is the Midtown dentist. Does the MTA suddenly want a city populated by un-analyzed people with rotting teeth?
Then, too, though police work odd hours, so do construction workers, reporters and movie crews. Cops have a dangerous job, it is true, but so do bodega owners, who carry cash. They can hardly take that cash on the bus.
Old people should get an exemption; it’s hard to walk down subway steps, and it’s annoying to wait for the bus. Young people with kids should get an exemption; it’s hard to bring strollers onto public transit.
People with suitcases should get an exemption, for the same reason — who is the MTA to judge if some people use their discretionary income to raise toddlers, and others use it for round-the-world trips?
People with large pets should get an exemption. The MTA doesn’t let dogs on subways unless they’re in a bag, and it’s hard to put a 120-pound dog in a bag. But it isn’t right for the MTA to discriminate against small dogs or cats when it comes to the luxury of riding in a car; we’ll have to exempt them, too.
Truck drivers? Upstate lawmakers want an exemption for trucks bringing farmers’ wares to greenmarkets. The supermarkets and liquor stores (yes, farmers’ markets sell liquor!) who compete against such markets will scream, unfair advantage.
New Jersey residents? They shouldn’t have to pay twice, once on the Port Authority’s bridges and tunnels and once in Manhattan. By that logic, we’ll have to exempt everyone whose route took them over a toll road, from Maine to California.
Priests, rabbis, imams — the MTA can’t want Manhattan to become even more irreligious than it is.
We’re left with hordes of high-income retail and restaurant workers. Yet all the special commuters need food and other consumer goods once they get here. It makes sense to exempt the heart surgeon — do you really want heart surgery performed by a starving doctor, courtesy of the MTA?
OK — but we’ve still got the millionaire bankers, right?
Bad news: If the banking industry were to collapse, we’d all be in trouble, as we learned in 2008. Yep, it’s true: Seven- and eight-figure bankers are “critical” to the global and local economy. Only a radical communist would want them to pay the congestion fee, and the MTA is surely not communist.
Lawyers? Everyone hates lawyers. But without people to interpret the law, we have nothing. Does the MTA want us to become lawless anarchists?
In that case, even the one New Yorker left deemed eligible to pay the congestion fee won’t have to pay. There will be no one to haul him to court.
This piece originally appeared at New York Post
Photo by Orbon Alija / iStock