A new report from Bertha Lewis and The Black Institute found that the MTA’s Central Business District (CBD) Tolling Plan would disproportionately and catastrophically harm New York City’s lower-income communities of color and devastate 100,000 New York City families, who depend on for-hire vehicle (FHV) driver incomes to survive. The Institute’s findings echo concerns raised by the Independent Drivers Guild, which represents hundreds of thousands of drivers across New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Illinois.
The new report, “Just Call It a Black and Brown Toll,” found the following:
- The plan unfairly double taxes FHV drivers, and “economically demolish an industry that… [is] already struggling. FHVs are the only vehicle class to pay both the 2019 surcharge and the congestion toll,” the report notes.
- There could be a 22% shrinkage in FHV trips, according to the MTA’s own Environmental Assessment, which could cause tens of thousands of job losses.
- FHV drivers could be tolled as much as $69 on the first three trips of their day, in addition to the congestion tax they already pay – as well as other taxes that support New York’s transportation infrastructure, a nearly-9% sales tax on each trip and airport fees on drop-offs and pick-ups.
- Congestion tolls would increase trip prices by as much as $23, putting the cost of FHV trips out of reach for many New Yorkers. This would particularly harm outer borough New Yorkers who depend on this type of transportation.
According to the IDG, the MTA’s Environmental Assessment fails to offer any reasonable mitigation for the harm caused to the 100,000 FHV drivers and their families whose livelihood will be destroyed, a “social justice” population that is largely Black, Brown and people of color. The city’s FHV drivers come from many different countries, but the top countries of origin are the Dominican Republic, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. The report notes that the mitigation proposals for FHV drivers are “at best totally insufficient to address the economic fallout of congestion tolling and at worst are utterly condescending to those who will lose their jobs because of congestion pricing.”
An MTA representative noted that tolling scenarios outlined in the environmental assessment are hypothetical, and if the program were to get federal approval, the Traffic Mobility Review Board would develop recommendations for rates, credits, discounts, and/or exemptions, and present them to the MTA board for consideration.
To help ensure the fair treatment of FHV drivers, the IDG created a petition, which can be found at driversguild.org/tax. By January, the petition had nearly 10,000 signatures, but more are being sought ASAP.
“This new report puts on full display that the MTA’s congestion tolling plan would unfairly double tax rideshare drivers and devastate the tens of thousands of low-income, immigrant New York City families,” said Aziz Bah, the IDG’s Organizing Director. “New York leaders must take this threat seriously. Another congestion tax would be the final nail in the coffin. We urge our fellow New Yorkers to stand with us. Please sign our petition at driversguild.org/tax.”
According to the IDG, gas prices and expenses have soared the past few years, and FHV drivers are already struggling to make ends meet. The Guild conducted a survey of more than 1,100 Uber and Lyft drivers and found that 9 in 10 drivers already have trouble paying their monthly bills. Other findings include:
- Over 90% of drivers say Uber and Lyft don’t pay them enough to survive.
- Nearly 80% of drivers have trouble paying their rent or mortgage.
- Two thirds of drivers have trouble making car payments, paying credit card bills and affording vehicle insurance.
- Over 50% of drivers struggle to afford food.
- Nearly 75% of drivers have children to support with their earnings.
If the project is approved, the program could be implemented 310 days later. MTA officials said in March that toll collection is expected to begin by the end of 2023. However, officials from both New York and New Jersey have been pressing the federal government to require a longer, more thorough environmental impact study to better understand the potential effects of implementation. If a more thorough study is approved, implementation would likely be delayed.