The commuters who drive into Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed congestion pricing zone earn more money than those who take public transportation to the heart of Manhattan, according to a new independent analysis.
The average yearly income of drivers in to Manhattan was 24 percent higher than other commuters, $75,523 versus $60,889, according to “Behind the Wheel: Who Drives Into The Proposed ‘Congestion Zone?’,” a report by the city’s Independent Budget Office, which took a deeper look at who drives and who takes mass transit into Manhattan below 86th Street each weekday.
The IBO also found that, when looking at the extremes of income distribution examined in the report, drivers were more likely to be in the top ten percent of earners and less likely to be in the bottom ten percent. More drivers came from outside the five boroughs than from within, according to the report, and those City drivers still made more money than their non-driver counterparts.
“These findings largely counter concerns that congestion pricing would disproportionately affect workers less able to afford additional commuting costs,” the report said.
All this proves the arguments of congestion pricing supporters, said Wiley Norvell, spokesperson for Transportation Alternatives. Norvell’s group and other congestion pricing supporters have made the argument that income disparities between drivers and other commuters were so great that the congestion charge would not have a negative effect on the working class.
And while some might question the statistics of interested activists, the IBO report is “unassailable proof” that congestion pricing supporters have been right all along, Norvell said.
“Folks that are using the poor to kill this plan are being really cynical, and are not being truthful,” said Norvell, who specifically referenced Westchester Assemblyman Richard Brodsky. Brodsky has in large part led the fight against congestion pricing while championing the middle-class, said Norvell, even though Transportation Alternatives’ study found that drivers from his district earn $176,231 annually.
“This confirms what we’ve been saying all along,” said Norvell. “[The IBO report is] a big shot in the arm for advocates looking to bolster our case, and we’re glad to see it.”
Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, who has stood with Brodsky during the fight over congestion pricing, felt that the IBO report’s findings were no real surprise. Of course drivers earn more money, said Dinowitz, because you need more money to drive a car. Still, Dinowitz felt that the income disparities were not as great as congestion pricing advocates make them out to be.
This was especially true when one compared City-living drivers, who the IBO state make $41,209 annually, compared to $32,279 for the City’s other commuters. No matter what you think of congestion pricing, said Dinowitz, you would never think $40,000-per-year makes anyone rich.
“It’s obvious that they make more money,” said Dinowitz of drivers. “But even if their average income is higher, most of these drivers are still middle class.”
He added, “People who are rich get driven, they don’t drive.”