'Cab driver Doug Schifter committed suicide last week, severely distraught due to the crushing weight of the gig economy. Uber, Lyft—and even congestion pricing—were some of the distressing issues he pointed to in the months and weeks leading up to his death. While at one time he could work 40 hours a week and make good money driving a black car, he was now working 100-plus hours a week, and still unable to make ends meet.
Congestion pricing, which Schifter had written about for Black Car News, might seem like a good idea to public transit, cycling and pedestrian advocates: Groups including Transportation Alternatives assert the plan will “reduce the total number of cars in the city,” reduce fatalities and make streets safer. They point to London’s congestion pricing as making streets safer for cyclists, with rates on injury and fatalities that fell by nearly 70%.
The idea so far, according to the New York Times, is that, “Drivers who enter a zone that stretches from 60th Street south to the Battery could be charged $11.52 during peak commuting hours, while trucks would have to pay $25.34. Passengers using ride-hailing apps, like Uber and Lyft, which have contributed significantly to the traffic problems, could face a $2 to $5 per-ride surcharge.”
The idea would be to use that money—estimated to be a billion or more per year—to pay for much-needed upgrades to the MTA, New York City’s public transit, though NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio says the plan doesn’t guarantee reliable funding for the transit system.
Some see the plan not as a funding source for a better MTA, but rather as an undue tax burden on New York’s middle and working class. State Assembly member David I. Weprin (D-Queens) considers it an “additional tax on people who drive into Manhattan, often not wealthy people, but middle-class people,” he told the New York Times. Many New Yorkers are already slapped with tolls—as much as $15 for a car to cross—once—into Manhattan at the George Washington Bridge and as much as $17 for a car to cross into Brooklyn via the Verrazano bridge. New Yorkers already pay a surcharge in taxis that goes to the MTA and a cell phone tax that also goes to the MTA, on top of the tolls and charges they pay when they use the transit system.'
Read more: Is 'Congestion Pricing' Good at Reducing Traffic, or Is It Just Another Big Price Gouge?
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