How Has Cuomo Short-Changed Transit? Let Us Count The Ways

Friday, February 07, 2014 - 02:22 PM

The soon-to-be-less-expensive Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. (wallyg/flickr)

Drivers are no doubt toasting Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposal to lower tolls on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge from $6 to $5.50 per round trip for E-Z Pass users. But it's also the latest move by Cuomo to take money from mass transit.

First, the MTA would lose $7 million dollars a year—half of the expected revenue loss from the cut. Or, as this press release from Cuomo's office put it, "The toll relief will be funded by a $7 million allocation in the state budget and $7 million from the MTA."

But Governor Cuomo opposes a plan by traffic guru Sam Schwartz to lower tolls on several other bridges in exchange for tolls on the East River bridges, which are currently free. Advocates say the plan would bring fairness to drivers and hundreds of millions of dollars to the MTA.

Veronica Vanterpool, the head of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, says Staten Island's 471,000 residents would be better off with fewer reasons to get behind the wheel. "Faced with limited transit options, many Staten Islanders have to drive, which contributes to traffic congestion, deteriorated roadways, and unsafe street conditions that led to 21 pedestrian fatalities between 2010 and 2012," Vanterpool said in a statement criticizing the toll reduction.

Also, Cuomo vetoed a bill in November that would've required an impact statement each time funds are diverted from the MTA to the state's general fund. The MTA has lost $260 million that way since 2009.

Finally, Cuomo reduced a payroll tax in 2011 that's been costing the MTA up to $300 million dollars per year. Albany has been making up the shortfall to the authority. But advocates complain that the move changed a dedicated revenue source for the MTA into a yearly act of largesse by the governor. And that, they say, brings less certainty to the finances of the authority—and more dependency on a governor who has not shown himself overly eager to fund mass transit.


Comments [2]

Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

Although I do applaud those living around the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge on getting a reduction on their tolls, it's hardly anything. Why not reduce the tolls to a more significant amount? Seriously, wasn't the original purpose of the tolls supposed to pay off what they were on and be removed to have taxes for infrastructure pay for them? That was the case for the original crossings, but not for those that were after WWII. Using them for revenue streams is a bad idea, and will cause them to go up even more. Before any staphangers think that they are paying a lot when it comes to fares, they are only paying about half as much and even the latest fare hikes are still small compared to the toll hikes that go up way more. In reality, it's us motorists on the tolls that are really paying the majority to fund mass transit, not the riders who are using it directly. Another reason why toll hikes or even just keeping existing ones is so opposed is mainly because a majority of the revenue generated doesn't even go to help what it's supposed to, but rather somewhere else. Overall, I have always found tolling to be nothing more than a double tip in which I have to pay to cross a bridge or tunnel that my tax dollars are already going to. For the record, since I do live in downstate NY, I am paying taxes to the MTA as well not to mention that they have been a state agency since 1965, plus they are also involved in commuter trains and buses that serve the rest of the region, not just the subways and city buses. Keep in mind why the idea to place congestion pricing was lost back in its day.

Feb. 10 2014 03:49 PM

I see a nice interesting World War III developing here. Firstly, you have a dispute brewing over discount tolls over the VerrazarNarrows Bridge between Brooklyn and Statan Island. Secondly, you have a strike threat by members of the Long Island Rail Road to go out on strike after March 21st. And Thirdly, I would be shocked if at some point, that strike by the Long Island Rail Road did not spread to New York!s bus and subway system. They too, have been without a contract now for almost three years. They are in the same boat (so to speak) as the workers at the Long Island Rail Road are in. The writing is "on the wall". Just read it, eh?

Feb. 10 2014 10:24 AM

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