The Port Authority — the New York and New Jersey government agency that runs the airports — is thinking about charging people $4 for their annoying habit of actually using the airports. More specifically, to come to or leave them: The PA would levy the fee on people coming and going by taxi or hired car.
But the fee fails three economic tests.
The idea is that charging people $4 would cut down on traffic. The fee would also pay for a more efficient way to manage hired-car lines.
The PA’s primary goal here is to change people’s behavior through pricing. If something is free — say, being dropped off at the airport — and people are using “too much” of it, just charge them money to do so and they’ll choose a different way of getting to their plane.
But what works economically in a perfect world — or even in a things-are-working-kind-of-OK world — doesn’t work in this case.
It’s fine to nudge people to make better choices when they actually have better choices. But there is no good way to get to La Guardia or Newark by public transit, so there’s no alternative to the current system.
To get to La Guardia, if you’re starting from Midtown, you’ve got to take a crowded subway to Queens.
When you get to Queens, you’ve got to exit the subway, cross a busy street and hop on a bus.
The state-run MTA recently improved the bus, painting it a distinctive shade of blue and installing machines so that people can pay before they board, eliminating lines.
That’s good — but you still often spend 10 minutes waiting for the bus to show up.
This is a great option — if it’s warm and sunny, and if you are one of the 46 percent of people starting your trip in Midtown, with the best subway connections, or one of the 20 percent of people going on a business trip. (The latter means you don’t have much luggage and no kids with you.)
But if you’ve got luggage or small children, you’ve got to schlep down two stories to get the subway,…