Last week, 14 of the New York City Council Progressive Caucus’ 19 members endorsed the Move NY Fair Plan. Among supporters were Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer and Transportation Chair Ydanis Rodriguez. The plan is projected to increase MTA annual revenue by $1.5 billion by adding tolls to the East River bridges while reducing tolls for outer borough connections.
Councilman Daneek Miller is one of five Progressive Caucus councilmembers who did not back the plan. Miller, who represents District 27 in southeastern Queens, cited concerns that the proposed toll reform is “a misguided proposal” and “a regressive tax and an undue burden on low- and middle-income working families.” He noted separately that many of his constituents drive to work due to limited mass transit options.
Councilman Miller, however, co-hosted a town hall-like meeting last week where he called for more public transit and investment in his district. So how does the Councilman reconcile opposing a revenue-generating proposal such as Move NY on the one hand while calling for more transit on the other? One rationale is the pervasive misconception about how exactly Move NY will affect Queens residents.
Councilman Miller’s statements imply that many District 27 residents would be adversely affected by toll reform since they drive more frequently than other New Yorkers. But Miller fails to consider the fact that the vast majority of car commuters in his district wouldn’t be impacted by tolls on the East River Bridges or the Queens Midtown Tunnel.
According to Census data, of the 83,452 workers residing in Councilman Miller’s district*, only 20 percent travel to jobs in the Manhattan CBD. Of those 16,721 Manhattan-bound commuters, 81.4 percent (13,624) use transit while 16.6 percent (2,788) drive. As a percentage of all workers in Miller’s district, the 2,788 who drive to the Manhattan CBD represent just 3.3 percent.
Councilman Miller also stated he would need proof that Move NY revenue would go towards the MTA and wanted to see more transit in “far-flung areas” to consider endorsing the plan. That’s fair. What’s not fair is when an elected official takes a position that ignores the fact that five times as many of his constituents use transit to enter the Manhattan CBD every day compared to those who drive.
Census data source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2006-2010 Five-year estimates. Special Tabulation: Census Transportation Planning.
*This is an approximation since there is not a perfect alignment of census tracts and District 27 boundaries.
TSTC Staff Analyst Ryan Hall also contributed to this post.