Gridlock Sam: Wrong Bridges Are Tolled

Over the last couple of years, talk of tolling East River bridges has come up numerous times to help create new funding for the MTA. The usual battle lines are drawn with those in favor spouting off the benefits & reasons why they should be & the detractors saying that it is not fair to put the burden on them.

Proponents of the tolls being added have routinely used the idiotic reasoning that people who use the bridges to drive in & out of Manhattan do so at a luxury since they clearly have so much disposable income available. I of course have called out that reasoning time & time again as it is based on opinion & no legitimate fact. I have received the typical comments of this study & that study but save it, as anyone can make a study say what you want it to say.

In today’s New York Daily News, Gridlock Sam penned an editorial explaining why the wrong bridges are currently tolled & how the East River Bridges need to be:

Here we go again: The MTA is raising tolls for all the wrong people. Drivers from communities outside Manhattan like Bayside, Queens; Throgs Neck, the Bronx; Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and Stapleton, S.I., will be asked to shell out another dollar to pay for a transit system they do not use and that doesn’t serve them very well.

For example, tolls will jump appreciably at the Throgs Neck Bridge – which connects Queens to the Bronx. Ever try to get from Little Neck, Queens, to Throgs Neck by bus? With the $223 million collected in tolls on the Throgs Neck Bridge each year and the bulk of that revenue going to mass transit, one would think we would have efficient Disney World-style monorails whisking people back and forth every few minutes. But, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority website, that trip by mass transit would require four buses, more than an hour of travel and a fare of $4.50.

On the other hand, drivers in Brooklyn Heights heading to Manhattan during the peak of rush hour pay nothing to cross the Manhattan or Brooklyn bridges, despite an alphabet soup of nearby subway lines including the A, B, C, D, F, M, N, Q, R, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

However, it’s not all good news for Brooklyn Heights residents, either. Already suffering through unbearable traffic, their wounds will be salted when the new toll sends thousands more drivers to clog Clinton, Henry, Adams and Tillary Sts. as they struggle to reach the approaches to the (free) bridges.

Another way to look at it is that the four free East River bridges into Manhattan generate $0 in revenue, although there are roughly 20 subway lines parallel to them. The six MTA bridges that serve transit-poor areas (the Verrazano, Whitestone, Throgs Neck, RFK, Marine Parkway and Cross Bay) generate more than $1 billion a year and are served by one lonely subway line, the A train’s Rockaway spur, which runs parallel to the Cross Bay Bridge.

What does this tell us? That we have tolls in all the wrong places. Yes, historically one set of bridges was built by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (now renamed MTA Bridges and Tunnels) with tolls and the others, which are older, by the city itself. But those East River bridges, now free, were all built with tolls. The tolls were removed by Mayor William Gaynor in the early 1900s. “I see no more reason for tollgates on the bridges than for tollgates on Fifth Ave. or Broadway,” he ominously said.

Click here for the complete editorial.

While I don’t completely agree with tolling the East River crossings, I understand Sam’s reasoning. If people who support the tolls being added presented their case as he did, they could potentially win more support & understanding. Instead some continue to chime in with the idiocy I referenced above & as expected get nowhere. It will be interesting to see if supporters change their tunes when the next pitch for tolling the East River crossings comes up.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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