Monday, January 21, 2008

Congestion Pricing: Who Speaks For Transit Workers?

By now most of you have probably have heard of Mayor Bloomberg’s plan NYC2030 which has two dozen transportation proposals, but the one that has gotten all the attention is congestion pricing. This means more commuters to a transit system that is already at capacity, and in desperate need of repair.

Both the public and the State legislation rejected the original plan of the Mayor’s which led to the creation of the New York City Traffic Congestion Mitigation Commission, a seventeen-member body directed to undertake a review and study of plans to reduce traffic, congestion and other related and health and safety issues within the city of New York. Our union leadership has supported the Mayor’s congestion pricing plan and continues to do so. Now even the biggest proponents of congestion pricing say that the system is currently unprepared to handle thousands of additional commuters.

The one thing no one -- including our union leadership Local 100 and the Mayor’s research staff -- has studied is the impact it would have on the transit workers. President Toussaint has not only endorsed the Mayor’s plan, he is now pushing the mayor and the MTA’s congestion pricing plan for them. In other words, our union is pushing a plan that would be a new tax on the working class, small business and at the same time increase our workload. He has made this decision not through research from our union but on the homework of the MTA.

Where are the researched reports and the studies conducted by the union? Why has congestion pricing not been on agendas for union meetings? Are we to believe that the Mayor and MTA are doing what’s best for local 100 members? To make matters worse, everyone knows that there are no guarantees that money generated will go only for mass transit. The other key here is how this will be funded, as congestion pricing is very expensive to set up and then to run, especially when you consider that we were all told that this congestion pricing plan would stop mass transit fare increases.

Something is really wrong when union leaders side with the ruling elite to add new taxes that will impact the working class. Make no mistake about, this is a tax on working class New Yorkers no matter what they try to call it. Although congestion is a problem, and the need for more funding for mass transit is critical, both the mayor’s original plan and the alternative plans by the commission are deeply flawed.

There are many groups, coalitions and individuals discussing the plan, both pro and con. The one thing that every one of these debates has in common is no one speaks for the transit worker. It is time that we get in on the debate, and until we know how this will impact every title in transit, I say we keep NYC Congestion Free.

Transit Unions Split on Congestion Plans, Chief-Leader 1/18/2008

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