Brooklyn Residents Want a Discount on Verrazano Tolls, Too

Friday, March 07, 2014 - 02:59 PM

Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (Joe Mazzola/Wikipedia Commons)

Now that the MTA has agreed to give Staten Island residents a toll cut, everyone wants in on the action.

"The Tolls Are Too Damn High!" proclaims an online petition co-sponsored by New York State Senator Marty Golden and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis. The pair are calling on the MTA to reduce the cost for E-ZPass users crossing the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at least three times a month.

In February, Governor Cuomo proposed lowering tolls over the Verrazano for Staten Island residents. Cuomo said he'd split the $14 million cost of the discount with the MTA, which operates the bridge. Following a vigorous debate at its board meeting, the MTA agreed to the toll break—meaning it said goodbye to $7 million in bridge revenue for the year.

"Cuomo busted the MTA piñata and now everyone wants some of the goodies inside," said Gene Russianoff, the head of the Straphangers Campaign, a transit advocacy group.

But Senator Golden says a discount for the rest of New York wouldn't hurt the MTA's bottom line because it would increase bridge traffic—and toll revenues.

"Right now people (from Brooklyn) don't go shopping in Staten Island," he said. "And in Staten Island they go shopping into Jersey. If we open up the economic avenues" between the two boroughs, he said, New Yorkers would remain in New York to shop.

"It's not a raid on transit," Golden said. "It's fairness."

Under Golden's proposal, drivers who cross the Verrazano at least three times a month would get a 58 percent discount, similar to a discount currently in place for Staten Island residents crossing Port Authority-owned bridges to New Jersey.

Golden said it wasn't incongruous for him to advocate for a discount over an MTA-owned bridge—despite his opposition to Cuomo's plan to divert $40 million in MTA funding away from the agency. In the past, Golden has tried to prevent the governor from making so-called transit funding raids, and has sponsored 'transit lockbox' legislation designed to preserve the MTA's state funding. Cuomo has never signed the bill.

One of his constituents, Golden said, drives between Brooklyn and Staten Island every day. "It costs him $3,500 dollars a year to go back and forth, and he's in his sixth year of doing that," said Golden. "That's almost $20,000. Do you think that's fair?"

The MTA wouldn't provide figures on how much Golden's proposed toll cut could cost the agency.

"Staten Island toll relief originated in the Legislature," said spokesman Adam Lisberg, "and that’s where these questions should be directed as well."






Comments [14]

Tyson White from UWS

Tal from Peasantville: How is it possible that drivers are subsidizing transit if they are paying less than 44% of the roads? Take also into account that there's no user fee for the fact that motorists in NYC occupy 80% of the public space rent free.

And, as you say yourself, you fill up your gas tank in NJ, so we get even less gas tax revenue from you.

Mar. 30 2014 03:21 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

Common sense, who is probably the alter ego is one of the others, I take it that you did read my other comments to why congestion pricing was opposed so much. The main reason was for being a regressive tax. Honestly, I never got what was the goal of it. Was this to get cleaner air or just use as another revenue source? If it was for air quality and to get other motorists to use public transportation, then no revenue can be made, and the same can be said vice-versa. The claim that it will help the MTA feels very suspicious, because they have gotten numerous funds in the past, and the system hardly ever changed. I'm not saying that I want increased congestion or more collisions, but try looking at the city as a whole, and not just Manhattan itself, and you will understand why there are those that drive. Looking back at London, the tax failed within two years when first implied forcing the zone to be increased as well as doubling the tax, and now it's been retracted to its original boundaries after a lot outcry against that. In other words, the same could happen here if it was passed. Once again, try looking at the causes rather than the effects of why congestion pricing failed to pass in NYC. Judging by the way you are mentioning it, you seem to have an anti-car bias.

Mar. 13 2014 07:49 PM from NYC


How many times do you even drive into the Mahattan CBD during rush hours?

Would you benefit from decreased congestion if you did?

Does cleaner air and less collisions sound good?

How about lower bridge tolls for trips between the outer boroughs?

Opposing congestion pricing is just stupid.

Mar. 13 2014 04:19 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

Tyson, nobody will argue with you that driving is heavily subsidized, but so is public transportation and just about everything else that we use. I can easily talk about the number of motorists that fund your transit and don't use it that much as well by your logic. How about the fact that a good percentage of the tolls goes to fund your transit rather than going back into what they are placed on? Of course, you will most likely deny that. BTW, toll hikes don't go up in quarters like fares, and they are much more constant, and this is who is getting the short end the stick. Again, we motorists are NOT getting a free ride especially when the roads and highways we use are paid for via taxes for infrastructure. Just to let you know, I pay a number of fees to maintain my car, and they are not cheap nor are they subsidized, not to mention increase quite constantly as well. One other thing, downstate NY has among the highest in gas prices that is so high, I actually have to cross into NJ just to get it for less rather than pay an arm and a leg to fill up where I live. Overall, it's us motorists that are getting the royal screw job here.

Mar. 10 2014 08:20 PM
Tyson White from UWS

Tal Barzilai from Peasantville, NY: "road pricing is sort of adding insult to injury to motorists in the way of feeling nickeled and dimed"

Really?? Motorist in NY State only pay 43.8% of the cost of the roads. The ones getting nickled and dimed are the non-drivers (majority of NYC residents) who are subsidizing the motorists.

And that doesn't even take into account the use of space: 75-80% of public space is taken up by cars who don't pay any sort of rent for that privilage.

Mar. 10 2014 04:49 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

Simon, some of what you said is true, but also false at the same time. Where some tend to live is more based on what is based on their income. Unfortunately, living in a transit oriented area actually costs more than living in one that has less or even none at all. I won't argue that some choose to live in such areas by choice, but most live where they can afford to. In other words, if I can afford to live in a well transit oriented area, I would give up my car and live there, but I can't due to how much money I have. Another thing that you and City Guy seem to say is more like tough noogies for those that don't have the luxury to live in good areas, plus the way you guys talk, you have probably never been outside your great domains. BTW, how much are you guys paying or renting to where you reside in, because it's probably not something I can get on my income? Unless you happen to advocate for affordable housing or rents, the places you live in are very expensive. In reality, road pricing is sort of adding insult to injury to motorists in the way of feeling nickeled and dimed. As for congestion pricing, another reason why it lost is because those living just outside the planned zone would fear that their neighborhoods would become parking lots for those trying to avoid the tax altogether, and there were similar claims to that back in London. At least I'm glad that Tom understands what I'm talking about when it comes to tolls, and I thank him for his comment.

Mar. 10 2014 04:31 PM
TOM from Brooklyn

Food for thought for how onerous the VNB toll has an onerous effect on Staten Island:
A recent survey of the NYC public school personnel on Staten Island(teachers & principals) had this extraordinary result: 74% of them lived and worked on SI; 24% lived out-of-state(meaning NJ and a lower toll); and, only 2% lived in other parts of NYC(the other side of the toll barrier).
A year's tolls to access the VNB with EZ-PASS would currently be $2014.74(189 work days X $10.66) plus fuel and tear & tear). Public transit(bus) is available from Bay Ridge and free ferry service from Manhattan, but, good luck on time--a good hour plus, I would think!
No wonder the people on Staten Island grow isolated & distant from the rest of us; and, of course, resentful of their City, State and Port Authority overlords.

Mar. 10 2014 11:11 AM

People choose to live in transit-poor areas for different reasons, but they should pay more for their trips that cost more (highways, bridges, commuter railroads, parking lots). Transit is a necessity, not a luxury, but choosing to live in an inaccessible area, opposing increased transit and development and then complaining about the cost of driving is ridiculous. It's all part of the cost of living that goes into the choice of where to live.

Mar. 10 2014 10:33 AM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

City Guy, I am talking about those that don't live in areas with convenient transit. It's great that you have that luxury of living in such a good area, but there are so many that don't, and I happen to be one of them. Do you really think that I choose to drive because of the fun of it or because I see it as the only way of getting around faster from where I live? Even if I could use Metro-North RR, I don't live close by the train station, getting a parking permit for the lot is pricey, and it usually fills up as the sun rises due to its space, and I have to pay another fare just to use the subway hence the two fare zone compared to where you live. Let's not forget that there are times it doesn't run as much, so I'm better of driving. Again, look at the causes rather than effects when it comes to those that tend to drive a lot. BTW, the VNB isn't just used by those in just Brooklyn and Staten Island only, but by other travelers coming possibly from Long Island and NJ as well. As for your claim on congestion pricing, there was a lot of opposition coming from the outer boroughs and suburbs in feeling that it was just another attempt at creating a barrier from keeping them out of Manhattan especially since those having to pay the tax came from areas where there was no viable alternatives to driving, and it was seen as a regressive tax, because the rich can easily afford this when the rest can't. To answer the notion by Moses, please read what I said about the original purpose of the tolls, which was originally intended to pay off the bonds going to fund them, and they were already being paid for via taxes for infrastructure in which those using them were indirectly paying to use them. Overall, the only reason you support toll hikes and even adding other forms of road pricing is because you don't drive on a regular basis yourself, which is why you have no problems giving those that do nothing more than the royal screw job.

Mar. 08 2014 09:37 PM
City Guy from Brooklyn

Alex, I would love to see a physically protected BRT lane allocated along the Verrazano Bridge. A pedestrian/bicycle path would be great too.

Tal Barzilai, I live in Brooklyn.

Mass transportation is plentiful here. How don't you realize that? The vast majority of Brooklynites live well within walking distance of rapid transit, the rest are covered by bus routes.

Anyway, congestion pricing makes sense in New York City and will arrive in time. Otherwise, traffic will only get worse. This system also actually benefits suburban motorist like yourself because it reduces congestion during peak hours, those that have access to mass transportation will be discouraged from driving due to the tolling. That equates a faster commute.

Mar. 08 2014 05:58 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

City Guy, not everyone can live close to everything like you can especially when not having the money for it. Also, NYC is more than just Manhattan, and not every part of boroughs is reachable by public transportation. Try looking at the causes to why some of us are driving, and you will understand why we choose it over public transportation. Some are coming from areas where there is no viable alternatives to driving, while others may have schedules that don't go well with commuter trains and buses, which happen to have sporadic schedules. To me, tolling is just seen as punishment to those forced to live in areas without any other alternatives. What really annoys me is tolls going to anything else but paying off what they are on. For example, the tolls from the plaza on the NY Thruway over by Stew Leonard's in Yonkers goes mostly to the state prisons. I don't see why it needs to be funded by the tolls when state taxes are already going to them. As for the plan by Schwartz, that idea isn't something new, and it was defeated countless times over, plus he has an anti-car bias, which is his ideas are usually hated. As for congestion pricing, that lost because it was seen as nothing more than a regressive tax, and even London, the city that first used such a tax, has taken steps back and reduced the zone after so many complaints about it. Overall, tolls are bad for businesses, because for the local and small ones, they will have to increase their prices to meet the tolls otherwise shut down while the corporations, chains, and big businesses can easily afford them, which does show how regressive this idea. Please remember that the MTA is a state agency, so I have every right to complain about how they function since my taxes also go to them as does everyone else living in downstate NY.

Mar. 08 2014 11:58 AM
Alex from Brooklyn

The notion that the bridges would eventually become free came at a time when Robert Moses and the dillusional idea that driving was the best way for everyone in a big city to get around reigned supreme. Now we know that traffic, pollution, and horrible efficiency are the results of that philosophy. If you think traffic on the tolled bridges is bad now, try taking those tolls away. It's insane to me that Golden can possibly think more traffic on the VZ would be a good thing. The answer is not to lower tolls but to find better ways to move people. Turning a traffic lane in each direction of the Verrazano into a bus lane would be a good start.

Mar. 08 2014 11:54 AM
City Guy from Brooklyn

Just enact congestion pricing and East River tolling while reducing the cost of inter outer-borough connections. Think the Sam Schwartz toll plan.

And Tal Barzilai, your facts are incorrect. Motorist cost this city an enormous amount of expense in terms of maintenance, expansions, pollution, collisions and lost revenue due to decreased walk-ability/vibrancy in certain areas. Public transit on the other hand is a much more efficient way to move people. It has led to increased density, reduced pollution, energy usage, commerce and more healthy lifestyle.

Mar. 08 2014 12:21 AM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

I still think that it's better to just remove the tolls as a whole on all crossings in and around NYC. The original purpose of the tolls was to pay off the bonds that have been long done decades ago, which was the case for all prewar highways and crossings, but not for those postwar. Honestly, it's a bad idea to use tolls as a revenue source, because they will just lead to more increases even when not needed. I don't think that they should be reduced, they should be taken away as they were supposed to decades ago. Even with the discount from having an E-Z Pass tag, it's still a lot compared to just about everywhere else around the country. Unlike transit fares, tolls don't go up in quarters, and the hikes are much more frequent, so I'm tired of the Straphangers Campaign complaining when us motorists are paying a lot more to the MTA than they are, plus they have no reason to complain until their fares start surpassing the tolls, which will most likely never happen. Overall, I just see tolling as nothing more than double tipping, because they are asking motorists to pay in order to cross when our taxes for infrastructure are already paying for them hence it's not a free ride.

Mar. 07 2014 09:08 PM

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