Ravitch Proposes Toll Rebate Compromise

For years, any mention of adding tolls to East & Harlem River bridges was shot down faster than you could blink an eye. Even as the MTA’s finances continue to spiral towards possible bankruptcy, the idea of adding tolls continues to be shot down by some officials. In their eyes, damn the MTA & the millions of riders who use it if it means adding tolls for drivers. This sentiment is especially true from Bronx Democratic Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. who has been one of the biggest anti-toll officials in the state.

With that in mind, Richard Ravitch proposed a toll rebate for drivers traveling to medical appointments & businesses who frequently use the crossings. No sooner was this proposal was made, Senator Diaz and others came out to announce their opposition. William Neuman of the New York Times has more in this report:

Seeking to win over State Senate opponents of a plan to create new bridge tolls on the East and Harlem Rivers, supporters of a financial rescue for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority offered a compromise on Wednesday that would give toll rebates to drivers traveling to medical appointments and to businesses that frequently use the river crossings.

But some opponents of the tolls — which would be set to match the subway fare, currently $2 — quickly rejected the compromise, which was put forth by the state commission that proposed the original rescue plan.

“I am opposed to any toll,” Ruben Diaz Sr., a senator from the Bronx, said on Wednesday. “They’re going to do a rebate? After two years they’re going to say no rebate. It’s a gimmick.”

To pay for the rebates, the state commission proposed two additional charges: a 50-cent surcharge on yellow-cab rides and an increase in the Manhattan parking garage tax. Those additional charges would raise an estimated $150 million a year.

Pedro Espada Jr., another Bronx senator, said he, too, would continue to oppose the tolls because he believed the rebates would not be permanent. He said he spoke on Wednesday with Senator Carl Kruger of Brooklyn, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, another toll opponent. He said that Mr. Kruger told him he also rejected the compromise. Senator Kruger did not respond to messages left with his office.

Three other Democratic senators who have opposed the tolls also did not return calls on Wednesday.

Mr. Diaz, the Bronx senator, reacted to the toll compromise by asking why Gov. David A. Paterson was not more focused on forging an agreement on the transportation authority rescue.

“I think that the governor should be involved doing this now and stop pushing gay marriage,” Mr. Diaz said. The governor is expected to offer legislation on Thursday to legalize gay marriage, something that Mr. Diaz, a Pentecostal minister, fiercely opposes.

Click here for the complete report.

Well Senator Diaz showed more of his true colors with his quick opposition. He clearly does not care of the majority of his constituents who use mass transit. I guess to him, the votes of the small driving minority among his constituents is more valuable. Lets see how well that line of thinking works out for him come re-election time.

Instead of doing what is right by his constituents or coming up with a legitimate counter-proposal, he would rather attack Gov. Patterson for his support of gay marriage. Senator Diaz, now is not the time for you to get into a battle over gay marriage. While the issue is important, this is not the time or place for it.

Overall, do the needs of millions of mass transit users matter to anyone else besides themselves? With the clear lack of action from Albany, the answer seems to be a resounding no. Whether you ride daily or infrequently, the importance of the MTA getting proper funding should be of major importance to you. Lets hope that Albany gets the memo before it is too late.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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