Cuomo To NYC Toll Reform Advocates: Drop Dead

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 - 03:50 PM

Should a toll come to the Brooklyn Bridge, swimming will be one of few remaining ways to cross the East River for free. (George Rose/Getty)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo isn't getting behind a new push to change the city's tolling system. At least for now.

The new plan, which is supported by The Regional Plan Association and other transportation advocacy groups, would lower tolls around the city while ending decades of free driving across the East River Bridges.

It's a variation on Mayor Bloomberg's failed congestion pricing plan of five years ago. The new plan, called "fair pricing," would reduce tolls by as much as $2.50 on most city bridges and tunnels -- the toll on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge would drop by about $5-dollars -- while adding a a $5.33 E-Z Pass Toll to the East River Bridges. It would also cost about five dollars to drive south of 60th Street in Manhattan during peak hours.

The plan's supporters say the move will raise money for transit and road repair, and end traffic jams at the free crossings. But Governor Cuomo's not buying it. "It's a proposal that's been brought up almost every year for the past several years," he told reporters on Tuesday. "It hasn't passed in the past and I don't believe it will pass now."

Traffic engineer Sam Schwartz, an architect of the new plan, said Cuomo would be right if the idea consisted solely of adding tolls to the East River Bridges. "But this plan does more than that, it brings fairness to New York drivers by lowering tolls in the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island," he said. He shrugged off the governor's reaction by pointing out that the plan's backers will be holding months' worth of public forums to build momentum for the reform, and that it might be a year before Cuomo and other officials are asked to act on revising the toll structure.

Schwartz and other transit advocates keep reviving the proposal as a way to create a dedicated revenue stream for the MTA's capital construction program, which has largely been funded in recent years by the taking on of massive debt.

Less than two weeks ago, Governor Cuomo vetoed a bill that would have prohibited shifting funds marked for public transportation to other purposes except in times of fiscal emergency. Even as a candidate for governor in 2010, Cuomo rejected the concept of congestion pricing and resisted the idea that new revenue be raised to pay for MTA projects.

Any change to the city's tolling would have to win approval in Albany.


Comments [7]

Chris from Brooklyn, NY

Tal Barzillai's claim that "we motorists already give the majority of the funding to the MTA while the riders on their transit give far less" is patently wrong. The MTA's total farebox recovery ratio is 56%, meaning that fares from riders pay for the majority of their total operating budget. In addition, taxes that riders pay also contribute to the MTA's budget. Motorists do contribute in the form of taxes they pay to the city and state, but they also benefit from the MTA in the form of less traffic on roads.

Dec. 02 2013 10:23 AM

Like Governor Christie across the river, Cuomo pretends to talk tough, when all he is really doing is passing the buck far enough in the future to not jeopardize his run for President. These two governors are far more alike than they'll admit when they face-off for President.

Christie cancelled the ARC not to save money, but to divert money to highways. And Cuomo didn't veto the transit lockbox to save money, but to make sure he has the flexibility to bail out the Tappan Zee Bridge boondoggle.

Dec. 01 2013 12:34 AM
JL from Brooklyn

Why should some bridges be free, and others ridiculously expensive? Accident of history? Wouldn't a rational plan be better? Right now there's an economic incentive to take a possibly less direct route, increasing emissions due to longer distance and congestion at bottlenecks, and increased load on the oldest structures. Plus we're taking on the dreaded public debt to finance maintenance and upgrades to the alternatives to auto use.

Nov. 29 2013 12:14 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

Once again, the idea to help transit profit off of tolls by placing new ones is brought up again. Fortunately, Cuomo saw through this idea and refused to accept it. Seriously, we motorists already give the majority of the funding to the MTA while the riders on their transit give far less. If anyone should be funding mass transit, it should be those that use it more, not less. The original purpose of tolls was to pay off the bonds and to remove them later, not use them as a revenue source. When that does happen, they go up even more higher than needed, and making it feel like a regressive move. Seriously, if the MTA is hardly taking care of mass transit without this, then I don't see how tolling the East River crossings will make any difference when they are still acting the same. Just like congestion pricing, this idea is a lost cause, and I doubt that Bill deBlasio will even support this idea himself. How about riders agree to some fare hikes if they want their system to be better rather than have so much subsidies. One other thing, when tolls go up, they don't go up in quarters like fares do, which shows who is getting the royal screw job here.

Nov. 27 2013 03:30 PM
Driver 8 from New Yawk

Doesn't self-appointed traffic czar Schwartz and these other car-hating "transit advocates" realize that the Bloomberg nanny state era is over?

New Yorkers don't want E River tolls, we don't want exclusive "congestion price" zones, and the days when a minority handful of so-called activists have the little Emperor's ear are gone!

Nov. 27 2013 10:35 AM
iaminnocent from Staten Island

God forbid Staten Islanders should get a break in tolls.

Nov. 26 2013 08:57 PM
Alex from Brooklyn

Cuomo is no friend of New York City and certainly not of transit. The sooner we realize he's slapping the hand that feeds him the better off we'll be.

Nov. 26 2013 05:33 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.