Brooklyn Pol: Let’s Charge $3 Per Amazon Package — And Other Ways to Raise MTA Cash

Photo by Gersh Kuntzman.
Photo by Gersh Kuntzman.

Assembly Member Bobby Carroll. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Brooklyn Assembly Member Robert Carroll launched a drone attack on Amazon and other online retailers on Monday, announcing a proposal to levy a $3-per-package fee on deliveries — with the money going to improve transit service.

Carroll (left) made his pitch via the Wall Street Journal, arguing that a per-package fee would discourage people from excessive online shopping, which would help local retailers while easing congestion caused by delivery trucks, which illegally park with near impunity.

He estimated the fee could raise $1 billion per year.

But that’s not all. Here’s a full op-ed from the Park Slope Democrat:

Last month the MTA board decided to postpone for now this year’s bus and subway fare increase. This is great news for the average straphanger, but with the MTA using its cash reserves to pay for its operating expenses if the legislature and governor don’t act fast your fare will soon increase and your service will begin to get even worse. If you think you are annoyed by weekend and late-night shutdowns and signal malfunctions now, wait until the subway apocalypse happens when cars that are 60 years old, switches that are 80 years old and substations that can’t produce enough power to run the system start to have catastrophic failures and are no longer able to be pieced back together.

The good news is with a little bit of political will and courage Albany can raise more than the $1.6 billion in annual direct revenue that the MTA needs to modernize our subways. A full $1.6 billion in annual revenue is the minimum amount that any state plan for funding the MTA raises because $1.6 billion is the current deficient projection for the 2022 MTA operating budget. Furthermore, the more direct revenue the state raises for the MTA the more likely we will be able to reduce fare hikes in the future while at the same time being able to modernize our bus and subway service.

Here’s how we get it done:

The first thing we must do is pass comprehensive congestion pricing with limited carve outs that charges drivers $5.76 when they enter and leave the congestion zone below 60th Street or when they use any East River crossings. This will raise the MTA $1 billion a year. It will have the added benefit of reducing traffic and car emissions by about 20 percent. This is good for our streets, good for our environment, and will get us the majority of the money we need to fix the MTA and save the fare!

Second, Uber and Lyft need to be regulated! We don’t need a hard or soft cap – just a daily licensing fee of $10 per day per app for all New York City-based drivers. So if you are an Uber or Lyft driver you will have to pay $10 fee when you log onto each app before you can start your day. With over 100,000 app-based drivers, this could raise almost a million dollars a day on busy days and will weed out bad drivers and disincentivize others who realize it is no longer worth driving for Uber or Lyft. Even with a reduction of drivers by 25 percent, this should still raise $100 to $150 million.

Third, Jeff Bezos, you don’t get off scot-free. The state should institute a shipping fee on all internet purchases from Amazon to Fresh Direct. Three dollars per order no matter how big or small. This will help small brick and mortar business, nudge people to stop being so lazy and get us a large sum of money to fix the MTA.

Fourth, sorry Manhattanites, no more free rides on garage taxes. Currently, if you own a car in Manhattan you get your monthly parking garage taxes waived — unlike drivers in the other boroughs. This is crazy and has got to go. We all need to sacrifice and having a car in Manhattan is the ultimate luxury, so you can pony up a little more. This will raise an additional $15 million annually.

Finally, we need to make sure the Taxi and For Higher Vehicle Surcharge ($2.50 for yellow cabs and $2.75 for Uber and Lyft for rides that start or end in the congestion zone) actually funds mass transit improvements. This will further reduce congestion and, frankly, you should pay more if you’re taking a cab in the most transit-rich place on earth! This fee should raise the MTA an additional $400 million a year.

All of this can be done by the budget deadline of April 1 — and if it is, we will get the mass transit we deserve, for a fare that stays the same while making our city more livable and our environment a little more green.

Robert Carroll represents Park Slope and Windsor Terrace in the State Assembly.