Local Official Says Don’t Bother Proposing East River Bridge Tolls

Last month, news came out about the Ravitch Commission possibly looking into proposing tolls on the East River Bridges. The news was met with harsh criticism by many including Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz who said “East River tolls are discriminatory, impractical, and impose an unfair ‘tax’ on the outer boroughs—especially Brooklyn.”

Now we can add another local elected official who strongly opposes tolls on the East River Bridges. This sentiment was shared by Upper East Side Assembly Member Micah Kellner who urged Governor Patterson to include two Citizens Budget Commission proposals in the next budget. One of the proposals called for increasing drivers license & car registration fees.

A similar proposal was recently raised by New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. However the proposals differ in the amount that would be charged. Under the CBC’s plan, the fees would be the same across the board for registrations. Under the comptroller’s plan, the fee would be determined by the weight of the vehicle.

Lets look a little more at the sentiment shared by Assemblyman Micah Kellner who had this to post on his blog:

So it’s “official,” our country has been in a recession since December, 2007, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, which announced the non-news earlier this morning.

Of course, we already knew this to be true for many months. On November 20th, MTA CEO Elliot Sander told the MTA Board, that new economic forecasts show projected deficit gaps of “$383 million for 2008, $1.441 billion for 2009, $2.394 billion for 2010, and nearly $3 billion in 2012, before prior-year carryover or gap closing actions.”

As I’ve blogged before, I am very concerned about the fiscal outlook for the MTA and how cuts to services, capital projects, system maintenance, and increased user fees will impact riders. But the negative effects spillover beyond transit users. The MTA is the lifeblood of the New York metropolitan area and when it suffers, so does the regional economy.

On September 15th, the Citizens Budget Commission (CBC) testified before the Ravitch Commission and outlined a number of practical suggestions for how to increase dedicated mass transit revenue.

Today, I wrote to Governor Paterson to urge that two CBC proposals be included in his 2009 Executive budget: Raising car registration fees and driver license fees by at least $50 annually.

With the Ravitch Commission’s report due to be released on Friday, now is the time to be examining all the options including this one and other good ideas like reinstituting the commuter tax.

Click here for the complete entry.

While the proposal might hold some merit, it is clear that the MTA will need more than this to help close its growing operating budget deficit. Our elected officials need to keep an open mind to possible suggestions that will come from the Ravitch Commission. I continue to not support congestion pricing but I am open to at least seeing what else the Ravitch Commission will propose. Will our elected officials show the same open mindedness? I seriously hope so as the future of our transit’s infrastructure is at stake!

xoxo Transit Blogger

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