Sep
28

What Staten Island gets vs. what Staten Island wants

By

Whenever the MTA’s five-year capital plan comes up for debate and discussion, some familiar proposals re-enter the public sphere. The Triboro RX circumferential line made headlines during last year’s mayoral campaigns while the idea of Utica Ave. or Nostrand Ave. extensions were bandied about amongst transit-watcher circles. Ultimately, the MTA unveiled a plan with only one new extension — Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway — and while many were sad to see their pet projects omitted, Staten Island expressed its displeasure with a sigh louder than normal.

Vincent Barone of the Staten Island Advance set the stage:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority unveiled its $32 billion, five-year capital plan this week with no aim to fund either the North Shore Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), or West Shore Light Rail projects. Staten Islanders have rallied behind the two major plans over the years in order to create more public transportation options in booming Island areas.

Allen Cappelli, Staten Island’s MTA board member, was outraged by the exclusion of projects, calling the current budget a “betrayal” to Staten Islanders. “[The New York Wheel and Empire Outlets] are going to exacerbate transportation conditions on North Shore,” he said. “This is a continuation of the neglect of serious mass transportation needs on Staten Island.”

The West Shore Rail Line is in need of $5 million for an Alternative Analysis study, while the North Shore Bus Rapid Transit needs about $365 million in funding for construction to begin. The original MTA plan was to use Sandy recovery money to build the BRT line, but the proposal hit a wall last year when the MTA decided not to submit the project for federal funding.

On the one hand, considering the relatively modest pricetags, that these projects should be included is almost a no-brainer. The $370 million in total expenses would amount to approximately 1 percent of the proposed $32 billion total. On the other hand, I’m holding out hope for some sort of rail restoration along the North Shore line and am not totally disappointed this project won’t see the light of day quite yet. It could also come about through later joint efforts with DOT as part of Mayor de Blasio’s promised 20 new SBS routes. Why the West Shore Rail Line Alternative Analysis wasn’t included is a good question. We should also look at bring the Hudson Bergen Light Rail line into Staten Island as well.

What Staten Island is getting includes $300 million for brand new rolling stock for the Staten Island Railyway. While we don’t know full details, these new cars will be compatible with Staten Island’s new real-time arrival system. According to the MTA’s capital plan, “other SIR work includes mainline track replacement, radio system enhancement, and component repairs at various stations.” That’s not much of an investment, but it’s something about which borough officials care deeply.(It’s worth noting that SI will also get two new ferries as part of a federal grant for storm resiliency.)

The question is though why isn’t Staten Island getting more, and while I haven’t had many conversations about this with many people, I believe it’s a political matter driven by the fact that many prominent Staten Island officials do not embrace transit. I use State Senator Andrew Lanza as a frequent example and that’s not without reason (1, 2). When these State representatives use their platforms to advocate against incremental transit reforms and do not fight for state dollars that could be used to expand transit, the MTA doesn’t respond. They’re not in the business of always lobbying for new projects without political support and until someone on Staten Island starts arguing for a North Shore or West Shore reactivation (let alone a connection to the subway via the harbor or the Narrows), the MTA won’t allocate money on its own.

This discussion also implicates the ferries in a tangential way. As part of a mid-1990s campaign promise, Rudy Giuliani dropped any fare on the ferries, and they are now a subsidized means of transit for everyone. I continually question why the ferries should be free; after all, people live on Staten Island knowing that the connections to Manhattan job centers are a boat ride away, and others who live in areas of the city isolated from the subway system sometimes have to pay multiple fares. Lately, the Borough President asked the city’s Independent Budget Office to assess a tourist-only fare, and the IBO determined that such a fare could generate as much as $67 million over 15 years [pdf]. Imagine what a marginal fare for everyone could do.

Maybe it’s time to have those difficult conversations with Staten Islanders. Maybe it’s time for those who want transit upgrades to propose ways to fund them. It’s not always easy to realize, but nothing comes to New Yorkers for free, especially in the transit realm. I don’t have the answers; I have only some thoughts. But to me, it starts with the elected officials. As long as the Senator Lanzas of the world are getting reelected, we’ll never have conversations regarding funding, fare policies and transit expansion that Staten Island needs and deserves.



80 Responses to “What Staten Island gets vs. what Staten Island wants”

  1. Kevin Walsh says:

    “Lately, the Borough President asked the city’s Independent Budget Office to assess a tourist-only fare”

    Jim Oddo has been talking this up for a long time. How would tourists be differentiated from Staten Island residents? Via some use of their drivers’ license or NYS ID card? Some tourists are from NYC and want to visit the wilds of Staten Island.

    • BoerumBum says:

      Frankly, the easiest way to deal with a fare on the SI Ferry that most residents wouldn’t notice to is make it a transferrable Metrocard swipe.

      • Bolwerk says:

        True, but that can double the cost of trips by itself. I’ve argued for putting the ferry in SIRT fare control. But that probably means only people who live near the ferry and walk to work on the other side end up paying anything, so maybe it’s just not worth it.

      • Larry Littlefield says:

        You have to remember why the ferry was made free.

        They wanted it to be a free transfer under “one city one fare.” But what they found is that since just about everyone was transferring from the MTA, that would have meant a lot of money spent collecting very little in fare revenue.

        The MTA was not about to make subways and buses free for those riding the ferry, so the city had to make the ferry free for those riding subways and buses.

        So who are the big beneficiaries? Those arriving at the ferry terminal by taxi, Citibike, or private tourist bus — and walking on the Staten Island side. How many are those?

        It just isn’t worth it to collect fares on the ferry.

        • tacony says:

          Eh, the cost of putting turnstiles in the stations wouldn’t be much in the grand scheme of things.

        • Ralfff says:

          Thank you, yes. This is the point. It may not be “fair” as such but neither is the free toll situation on the East River bridges. In fact it may not be legal at all to have a single congressional district cross a water boundary WITHOUT a free crossing between Brooklyn and Staten Island either, but this is something that nobody wants to look at too closely right now. As I’ve posted here before, people transferring from buses to the SIR to another transfer in Manhattan already get an extra free transfer; if that’s part of the equity issue then by all means give extra transfers to other destinations too (i.e unlimited transfers within 2 hours but not on the same line twice). It’s true to the one-city-one-fare spirit.

          The tourist-only fare idea is a dumb idea from a veteran panderer who conveniently has voiced no other thoughts about funding public transit or ever given any sign of caring about it.

          And the new rolling stock for SIR is good, happy for them, but the comments on the SILive.com article should give you an idea of the kind of mentality you’re dealing with. They complained when they were told they were going to get hand-me-downs for a train that many riders don’t even pay for, and they whined. Now they’re going to get new cars even though there are perfectly good old ones to continue using, and they still complain.

          • lop says:

            “In fact it may not be legal at all to have a single congressional district cross a water boundary WITHOUT a free crossing between Brooklyn and Staten Island”

            What?

            • John says:

              Yeah I don’t get that either. It’s not like people have some god-given right to cross the rivers for free.

              • BenW says:

                Took me a moment to parse, but I think the question is whether it’s legal to have a congressional district (the 11th, specifically) be internally divided by a boundary that cannot be crossed without paying a toll. I have no idea what the legal basis for that question is, but I wouldn’t be shocked if there were some corners in the Voting Rights Act that covered things like that.

                • lop says:

                  So any island without a free boat or bridge off it has to be its own congressional district? Why doesn’t the ferry to the Brooklyn bridge count? It’s free. So I’m going to go pitch a tent on an uninhabited island say I live there and then get my own member of congress unless I’m given a free boat to go back and forth.

                  • Ralfff says:

                    no. but if a free connection exists (the ferry in this case) it may be legally more sound to connect the district by that means. Obviously if there is no alternative at all it still must be in some district. Even more obviously, our entire districting system is dumb but the 11th is actually the least gerrymandered in the state. I read about this being a thing in the context of removing all tolls on the V-N I think- not sure of the legal basis exactly and I am not anti-toll, but I am against splitting the district in this way.

                • Bolwerk says:

                  Doubtful. Districts have to have a certain number of people in them, and SI basically has its own plus a piece of Brooklyn.

                  Who has standing to complain? Any alternative is likely to weaken SI’s clout, so the island has nothing to complain about.

                • Ralfff says:

                  Yes. This is what I’m referring to, although admittedly I can’t find any relevant documents right now. And the alternative would be including it with Manhattan. Obviously there are cases of islands where there is no free ferry at all to the rest of their district, but since there is one here, that would be a more legally sound choice. I think.

      • AG says:

        Actually – that is a very sensible idea.

  2. Graham says:

    There is another answer, but it will face strong resistance and with all changes of this nature require expenditure to implement.

    Zonal fares, make it possible to use one ticket to catch a bus/train/subway/ferry and base the costing on distance travelled.

    • BoerumBum says:

      Ah, the classic “Poor Tax” solution. “Sorry you can only afford to live in East New York, chum. Enjoy your $20 fare to midtown!”

    • Bolwerk says:

      Without POP, there isn’t a very practical enforcement mechanism on buses for zone fares. Even then, more zones means more complication. Meanwhile, exit turnstiles on NYCTA rail are probably a multi-billion dollar proposition.

      Let’s never mention zones again!

      • pete says:

        The stainless steel cubic NYCTA turnstiles were made to support exit swipes from day 1. Look at the turnstiles at SIRT St George. Same part/mfg, but card readers on both sides. The SI Ferry terminals already have turnstiles to enter the ferry area, they just dont do anything other than count people. https://www.flickr.com/photos/the_defiance/2377319476/

        • Bolwerk says:

          It’s probably easy enough at a few discrete stations, but would be pretty much intolerable at most core stations during rush hours. Why bother? People will complain, it will solve little financially, and it ignores real problems like financing new construction.

  3. Larry Littlefield says:

    There are three extremely important facts about Staten Island bearing on mass transit, two of which can’t change, and one of which Staten Islanders don’t want to change.

    1) Staten Island is much, much farther away from the center of the region in Midtown than any other borough, in miles, even as the crow flies. Nowhere else in the city is as far as Tottenville. Huge areas of the other boroughs are closer than St. George.

    2) Staten Island is high density by national standards, but low density by New York City standards. There are no subways in similarly low density parts of the other NYC boroughs. In part because the subways and the areas served by them were built before zoning started restricting density, whereas most of Staten Island was built after the VZ Bridge was opened in 1960.

    3) After decades of sprawl, Staten Island has reached the point where the rest of NYC is. The borough is nearly fully developed, and there can be nearly no growth by building on open land. Any new development will have to cover the cost of buying and tearing down old development, presumably at a higher density. The city has spent the past 25 years downzoning Staten Island to prevent this, starting with the 1989 Lower Density Contextual Zoning Study, at the behest of Staten Islanders.

    It should also be noted that surveys find that Staten Islanders are happier with their borough than other New Yorkers. As it is. Transit is a supplement for them, and they want it free if possible and free otherwise.

    • Bolwerk says:

      The second two both seem changeable and like something SI doesn’t want to change. Re #2 I think it’s pretty certain private developers will do infill and increase density, though density is only necessary (but not sufficient) to good land use. You can have autocentric high density.

      #3 might be unchangeable with current land use regs, but infill can mean building improvements on land that is currently reserved (e.g., a large yard). So it’s not entirely true that there is no “open land.”

    • AG says:

      The business community on Staten Island has been begging for the West Shore light rail for a long long time. Likewise reactivation of the North Shore.

    • Quirk says:

      Dear New York,

      Please give SI to New Jersey, ASAP. It’s a burden to NYC

      • Chet says:

        First, as a Staten Islander, the words I’d like to say Ben wouldn’t allow on his website.

        Second, I hate to tell you but Staten Island pays the city more in taxes than it gets back in return services. Manhattan and Staten Island support Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.

        Instead of us going to NJ, how about Brooklyn and Queens join up with Nassau and Suffolk Counties, and the Bronx with Westchester?

  4. John says:

    It is kind of shocking that the SI Ferry is free. I visited New York last month and took the ferry once. I was waiting about 10 minutes for the doors to open, and two different people came up and asked me where to buy tickets. So some people (at least tourists) are already expecting to pay, so logically maybe they should start taking their money.

    A “tourist only” fare sounds like a bad idea, though. Not only does it make for bad PR, but it seems impractical to implement. To me, it would make the most sense to make it work like any other “ride” in the network. If you just take the ferry you pay for a ride, but if you continue on bus/subway/etc. you are able to transfer.

  5. Andrew says:

    “…make it a transferrable Metrocard swipe.”

    For practical purposes, this is the status quo, just without the expense and hassle of all those turnstiles. The number of ferry passengers who do not use transit at at least one end of their ferry ride is insignificant.

  6. AG says:

    The North Shore and West Shore projects should have gotten the ball rolling – with additional density to matc.. It doesn’t make sense for politics. If the city is really talking about making space for the expannding population – areas near the SIR stations should be re-zoned for more density.

    Expanding the PATH to SI and the subway from Brooklyn are pipe dreams – UNFORTUNATLEY. However – the light rail proposed for the west should connect to connect to HBLR (and by extension PATH). That should be a no-brainer… but… politics.

    • Brian says:

      I agree with expanding PATH. It is already being expanded to Newark Airport, I think it should be continued to the North Shore, allowing North Shore Staten Islanders the option of going through NJ. to reach Mid-Town or take the PATH North Shore route to Ferry Terminal to downtown. Plus, a link to an International Airport by public transit will make Staten Island attractive to some business firms. The SIR should be expanded to reach the New Jersey Transit Station in Perth Amboy, people in the Southwestern part of Staten Island could head through NJ. to reach Mid-Town and to go Downtown take SIR to Ferry. I think the public transit commuting pattern could be changed and diffused by expanding in to NJ. because the current public transit pattern forces all Staten Islanders to either go across the harbor by Ferry or go by Bus through NJ. or through Brooklyn. Plus, I currently live in NJ. I can’t tell you how many Staten Islanders go to the Jersey Shore in the Summer and sit on the Garden State Parkway summer traffic for hours trying to go over the Outerbridge Crossing. I know a NJT Coast Line and SIR connection in Perth Amboy, would alleviate a lot of congestion in the Summer Season. So, these connections should be profitable immediately.

      • AG says:

        What you say is true… But it would take some huge shift in the political landscape to put money into those projects

        If Staten Island were by itself it would be the biggest city in NJ. In NY it would be he second biggest city after the rest of NYC. Like Rodney Dangerfield – it “gets no respect”. NYC is bursting at the seams. Parts of Staten Island could/should be more dense. Without proper rail transportation though – it won’t happen. If we’re alive – we’ll see how this shakes out in the coming 2 decades…
        I mean – right now Staten Island has a lower population density than Yonkers! It would need another 120k residents to match Yonkers’ density. Amazing that a real borough of NYC can say it’s less dense than a city in Westchester… That’s not to mention the smaller but more dense Mt. Vernon. Though Yonkers and Mt. Vernon both have multiple Metro North lines/stops and NYC subway lines that stop right at there borders. Now they don’t have a big harbor to cross – but still – it’s as if when the vote was taken in 1898 the charter got it mixed up. Those two look more like the rest of NYC than Staten Island (density wise).

        • Brian says:

          I think those options are better and far more cost effective than the tunnel under the harbor or tunneling under the Narrows. There are multiple ways to get off Staten Island and reach NYC, and not all of Staten Island needs to go through St. George either by Ferry or whenever it gets built, “The Tunnel under the harbor.” I know the politics would be the largest challenge, NJ and NY working together, but they were able to get together to open up the Freight Train Spur to Howland Hook and also open up the Travis Branch to allow NYC Garbage to be transported by rail off of Staten Island and through NJ. If politics could get together and open up the Freight Train operations on Staten Island, I am sure they could get passenger trains opened up as well.

        • Bolwerk says:

          No respect? Its cretinous politicians reaped exactly what they sowed with regard to land use regulations and transportation and a lot of other things. I’m not against giving them rail,* but as long as they won’t let it attend at least modest upzoning to improve the tax base near the rail lines, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. And that bloated BRT line makes even less sense.

          They’re analogous to the Upper East Siders who complain about SAS: they want improvements, and can’t tolerate any pain (for themselves; it’s okay for others).

          * Preferably cheap light rail, unless an interborough provision is made.

  7. marv says:

    Talk about Staten island rail connections(light, subway/path, or heavy) focuses on connections to Brooklyn or via the Bayonne Bridge or even the soon to be rebuilt Gothels to NJ.

    The Bayonne Bridge does not connect well with the SIRR and light rail over the bridge provides a slow option on a long trip and still requires multiple transfers to get to the east side.

    I believe that current SIRR should be extended north to approximately short of Westervelt Ave where a high level signature bridge should then take it over the Kill Van Kull to an elevated structure following New Hook Road->440->I-78-> Hoboken and then under the Hudson to join the #7.

    *This is a more realistic way of sending the SIRR up through NJ
    *The Jersey side of the Kill Van Kull is tank farms and highly industrial so an elevated structure would not cause blight
    *A Hoboken #7 transfer would take tremendous pressure off Penn Station, the Hudson rail tunnel, and the northeast corridor from almost Harrison through the Sunnyside Yards as it would be a superior station for those headed to the east side and would allowing more NJT trains to be sent there without alienating ridership.
    *Hoboken could serve as a secondary NE corridor terminal for local/lower priced trains during peak periods – reserving Penn Station for High Speed/high priced trains when slots are not available.
    *The Bayonne light rail (including an extension over the Bayonne Bridge to the Staten Island Mall) would become a feeder for this new rail line.
    * a new PATH station where this new line crosses would allow give Staten Islanders one transfer access to: Newark/Newark airport, the WTC terminal, etc. PATH riders would gain one transfer access to the #7 42nd street corridor.
    *The bridge over the Kill Van Kull and even the elevated structure up 440/78 could include a bike/jogging trail as a further amenity.
    *Northern Jersey commuters would benefit from the Hoboken #7 transfer.
    *A park and ride at a station built along side I-78 could draw drivers from the Holland Tunnel.

    In short much of the region could benefit from this one project.

    • Eric says:

      A new Kill Van Kull bridge would need a clearance of 215 feet to accommodate container ships going underneath. Assuming a maximum rail grade of 4%, you would need a ramp over a mile long to reach that height. It is only about half a mile from the center of the channel to St George. This basically makes your idea geometrically impossible, as attractive as it would be otherwise.

      • lop says:

        Run it elevated over Richmond terrace, start before St. George. The ferry stop could be twenty feet over the road, the road itself is some twenty feet over the water. 3500 feet from Schuyler to the waterfront, 5% to climb the last 175 feet. Are you limited to 4%?

        • Eric says:

          I’ve heard that the reason a Lincoln Tunnel can not be reused for rail is that the grade is over 4%.

          According to this link, the maximum grade for subways is 6-8%:
          http://www.planning.nsw.gov.au.....h5_pt2.pdf

          But there are additional limitations on this. Your subway vehicles and electric systems need to be capable of supporting the higher grades, and my impression is that NYC subway equipment currently can’t (I would love to hear that I’m wrong). Also, we are not talking about a tunnel, but about a very exposed bridge, where weather effects such as wind and ice would require a larger safety margin.

          Also, building such a high ramp/bridge would be very expensive, and might generate a large backlash from the people who’d have to live adjacent to it.

          I think a better idea would be to make a very low bridge with a movable section (i.e. a bascule bridge) so that trains and ships can alternately go through.

      • Bolwerk says:

        Unless it involves freight, why 4%? I’d think even PATH would be able to handle closer to 10%.

  8. The Staten Island Ferry and Railway only run every 30 minutes for most of the day. Every other subway line in the city sees service more often than that even in the dead of night, and even the Weehawken ferry runs more often at midday. The poor off-peak frequency encourages transferring commuters to take the Manhattan subways at times when they are most congested, makes the SIR much less useful for non-ferry-bound trips, and is an inconvenience for everyone who ever needs to use the ferry outside rush hour.

    The ferry and SIR both ran every 20 minutes off-peak until the early 1980s, and restoring this level of service would require no new boats or trains, just one more midday crew for each. Given the current annual budgets of $108M for the ferry and $53M for SIR the annual cost of better off-peak service would likely be in the low tens of millions. (Less if SIR could move to OPTO.) This seems like a much better value for money than the quite poorly conceived capital projects under discussion.

    • Eric says:

      How about pair an increase in frequency with the imposition of a toll?

      • On the ferry? We’ve been over this, everybody’s transferring from SIR or subway, it would cost more to collect than the revenue it would bring in.

        On SIR trips between stations south of Tompkinsville? Again probably not worth it for now; maybe turnstiles at a few extra stations if improved frequency made such trips much more common.

        Either could be revisited once the MTA gets around to replacing the Metrocard, hopefully with a system that would make collecting fares in these situations cheaper and less cumbersome.

        • Eric says:

          No, I’m thinking that ferry riders should pay even if transferring to SIR/subway. Yes, this would mean double costs. But if the trips are more frequent and convenient, many people might consider it worth it. Or not. Put it to the vote on Staten Island.

          • threestationsquare / Anon256 says:

            Nobody else in the city pays for transfers, despite having far more convenient service than ‘every 20 minutes with a forced rail-ferry transfer’.

            Anyway, you’re coming at this backwards. We, the rest of the city, want Staten Islanders to take the ferry instead of driving over the Verrazano and bringing congestion, pollution, higher maintenance costs, and carnage to our streets. If a few tens of millions improving the attractiveness of ferry service helps with that it’s a small price to pay. If you want to get more money out of SI commuters it would be better to raise the toll on the Verrazano.

  9. LLQBTT says:

    Wouldn’t it be nice to have something more integrated regionally? How about expanding the light rail to form a bit of a network, including the North and West shores and then over to Elizabeth and Newark Airport.

    • AG says:

      Well if the light rail connects to the HBLR as planned – then there is a connection to PATH. PATH is planning to run direct to the airport. So that would solve most of the problem. Further regional connectivity? PATH should really be folded into the NYC subway – but that’s another issue for another time.

  10. Joe Fubeetz says:

    Extending HBLR to Staten Island would cost way more than anyone realizes. The capacity constraints on the NJ side are all too often overlooked by people who claim that west shore is simple a matter of extending the tracks over a bridge. The existing bus route in the corridor, S89, hardly has the ridership (~1000 average weekday) to support the investment required for rail.

    • AG says:

      But the region is still growing. Having infrastructure in place to absorb the added density is important. Trying to do it after is even more difficult.

      • Joe Fubeetz says:

        I would totally agree with you, if Staten Islanders were actually interested in up-zoning.

        • AG says:

          Well if growth continues they would have no choice. Now granted – it’s a chicken and egg. If there is no rail addition – then upzoning makes no sense. At the same time they have to be willing. I mean it’s not like they need to become as dense as the Bronx – but there is no reason Hudson County, NJ is more dense – as well as tow cities in Westchester County. Staten Island as a borough of NYC should at least be on par with those.

    • Bolwerk says:

      What capacity restraints? Looking at the schedule between Bayonne and Hoboken, HBLR seems to do run like 8TPH at peak hour. It would probably be fairly trivial to triple that.

      Is the Weehawken segment single-tracked or something?

      • Bolwerk says:

        s/Weekhawken segment/Bayonne segment/

      • JAzumah says:

        The trains are full during rush hours. You have to put the people somewhere.

        • Bolwerk says:

          And putting them in new equipment would not be an option? I still don’t see the capacity problem.

          • JAzumah says:

            You would need to retime the signals in addition to adding new equipment or you would have to kill the Bayonne Flyer and put SI trains in those slots.

            • Bolwerk says:

              It looks to me like there are some issues with single-tracked segments, and I don’t know how much capacity could be squeezed out without double tracking.

              But why couldn’t Bayonne Flyer simply be a normal local service on SI? Presumably the goal is rapid access to Hoboken or Jersey City (or, less practically IMHO, Manhattan by way of one of those places).

              • There no single track segments. Plenty of room, HBLR could easily run twice as many trains. Would probably have to give up the Bayonne Flyer but if you really want it a few bits of third track for passing would be cheap compared to the cost of extending to SI.

                • Joe Fubeetz says:

                  8th Street station is served by a single track viaduct. That graphic was developed prior to the opening of the station.

                  If I recall correctly, the Wye at either Liberty State Park or Hoboken (I forget) is a major capacity constraint, as well as the mixed running segment on Essex Street.

  11. JAzumah says:

    The Bayonne pax won’t be able to actually fit on the Flyer. There are not that many of them. A lot of East Shore Staten Island residents get to Jersey City via Manhattan. Some will switch and the cars will already be loaded by 8th Street.

  12. AgentOtis says:

    I continually question why the ferries should be free; after all, people live on Staten Island knowing that the connections to Manhattan job centers are a boat ride away, and others who live in areas of the city isolated from the subway system sometimes have to pay multiple fares.

    I continually question why people in SI have to pay tolls to get to other parts of the city they live in and pay taxes to. I can understand to New Jersey, but to Brooklyn? Very immoral to me.

    I’m from California (and live in NYC) – even in the SF Bay where EVERY bridge is tolled, there’s an option to avoid it – Take 680 to San Jose and 280 or 101 up to SFO. Adds an hour to the drive, but it’s an alternative to crossing the Bay. Staten Islanders, bar the ferry, don’t have a non-tolled/tribute option, despite paying their share of tax to deBlasio. That ferry should remain free, and the Vearazzano should be $0 toll for Staten Islanders with an EZ-Pass. (Since every other borough has toll-free bridges as well as subway connections to Manhattan.)

    • AG says:

      well no – it shouldn’t be free to drive the VZB – even for SI’ers. However I fully am in agreement with Gridlock Sam’s plan to toll the 4 free East River bridges (Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg, 59th St.) and reduce the tolls on the Throggs Neck – Whitestone – VZB.

      One question though for persons in the Bay Area… why would anyone drive an hour to avoid a toll??? I used to use the east river bridges to avoid the Throggs Neck and Whitestone – but when you add up the time and the extra gas used – it actually ends up a loss.

      Same with GWB vs. TZB… well at least until the new one opens.

      • AgentOtis says:

        One question though for persons in the Bay Area… why would anyone drive an hour to avoid a toll??? I used to use the east river bridges to avoid the Throggs Neck and Whitestone – but when you add up the time and the extra gas used – it actually ends up a loss.

        For many of us who lived in the Central Valley and worked in the lower Peninsula in the SF Bay, it would be faster to take 680 or 880 south to San Jose then north on the 101 to Palo Alto than taking 80 across the Bay Bridge(s) – there’s actually two of them and a tunnel – through SFO’s Civic Center and 3rd St Basin on the 101 (since there’s no direct connection between I-80 and I-280 – the other freeway to San Jose) in that massive traffic jams (which can suck worse and is narrower than the section of the BQE north of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel). Higher average speeds + less stop-n-go = better MPG.

        • AG says:

          I’m not familiar with Bay Area roads – but looking at the map – I seriously can’t see how it would save gas… MPG might be better – but distance travelled seems like it would negate any advantage.

    • sonicboy678 says:

      So allow me to flip the script. There’s at least a bit of a chance that someone lives in Brooklyn and works on Staten Island. Should that person have to pay a toll for crossing the bridge simply to travel between work and home?

      • AgentOtis says:

        No – I don’t believe one should be charged toll to travel from one part of the city one lives in to another if there’s no alternate non-tolled route to the same place. (I find it equally immoral that persons in Far Rockaway have to pay toll to get to Queens or Brooklyn unless they drive into Nassau County to take the Nassau Expy & Rockaway Blvd.)

        So I used to drive all over Long Island and the Bx when I first got here. $15 per day (sometimes twice) to go over the Throggs Neck or $7.50 to use the QMT, plus $7.50 for the Triboro.

        Did I hate it? Yup – I’ll never complain about the $6 I paid to go across the Bay Bridge again. But what was the alternative – spend 40 minutes in traffic going over the Queensboro, Manhattan, Williamsburg or Brooklyn Bridges, then 50 minutes in traffic on the FDR plus 30 minutes getting to the 179 St exit on the Major Deegan just to get back to Kingsbridge and Bailey Ave in the Bx. It sucked, but that was the alternative to giving TBTA all my money.

        People in Staten Island don’t have any such alternative except that boat to South Ferry. Whereas all of us not on SI can go from one borough to another without paying a toll if we so choose. All SIers really have is that boat. They should have the bridge toll-free at least (although it’s been 50 years, that bridge’s construction bonds should’ve been paid off by now).

    • Bolwerk says:

      The reasons are largely historical. The infrastructure financing schemes Moses used to create road bridges and tunnels were folded into the MTA to finance subways (which Moses hated) and other projects. For the quick version, this Wikipedia article section on Robert Moses seems more or less accurate. The long version of the story can be found most famously in Robert Caro’s The Power Broker.

      I agree the tolls are unfairly high for SI, but they’re unfairly low for Manhattan crossings. Sam Schwartz often touts a plan to fix that. But free toll ideas are probably bad, since tolls do regulate traffic.

    • Gas isn’t free (and in your Bay Area example detouring via San Jose almost certainly costs more). Unless you’re walking the whole way (or taking the SI ferry) nobody’s commute is free. If you want to get from SI to Brooklyn for free, take the ferry to Manhattan and walk over the Brooklyn bridge; it’s not really more unreasonable than driving from SF to Oakland via San Jose.

      Are you next going to demand free ferries to Nantucket since they pay Massachusetts taxes? Free flights from Anchorage to Nome?

      Drivers from SI use free higwhays and roads all over the city, adding to maintenance costs (which gas taxes don’t come close to funding), congestion, and pollution, and yet you think it’s “immoral” to charge them a few dollars at the spot where it’s feasible to do so, while the rest of us are paying our subway fares for a much less subsidised and lower-externality mode of transport? The entitled attitude of drivers is frankly breathtaking sometimes.

    • Ralfff says:

      Geography isn’t immoral, it just is. Somebody’s got to pay for that extremely long bridge and the last thing New York (including Staten Island) needs is Staten Islanders driving even more. In that regard SF, which has less than half the density of Brooklyn, has nothing to teach us.

      • Ralfff says:

        Not to mention, it’s as unfair for the rest of the city to be unable to drive to SI at a toll. By this logic the bridge should have no toll for anyone.

  13. Michael says:

    As usual I’m both amazed and saddened by the responses to this topic, and that certain points have to be made over and over again.

    Here’s the usual listing of so-called “Staten Island issues”:

    – Staten Islanders ARE New York City residents! (Check)
    – No they are NOT! Staten Island is like that island from LOST, where everyday people live/work/play and travel back and forth – but its not really a part of New York City (Check)
    – Yikes the ferry is free – those freeloaders (Check)
    – The MTA’s “One-City One-Fare” program should not exist for Staten Islanders, well because, you know (Check)
    – The ferry schedule sucks, they moved there it is their own fault! (Check)
    – Staten Island politicians are idiots, why can’t they see our divine wisdom & instantly provide the billions for our transit fantasies! (Check)
    – Staten Island folks should just hand over their wallets so that the MTA/NYC/PATH can rape them of millions, but do not ever dare ask that any useable services/facilities ever be provided for SI-residents to actually use. (Check)
    – All politicians are idiots, why can’t they see our divine wisdom & instantly provide the billions for our transit fantasies! (Check)
    – Every transit problem on Staten Island would be solved if they just re-opened the North Shore Rail line (Check)
    – Every transit problem would be solved if they just listened to me! (Check)
    – Every transit problem on Staten Island would be solved if they just built a LRT system in the western-most lowest populated section and least dense part of the island (Check)
    – The tolls on the Staten Island bridges are very high (Check)
    – They should put tolls on the four free bridges in Manhattan (Check)
    – Let’s keep proposing the opening of an old shore-line rail line when the shopping, medical, and job centers are 1 to 2 to and 3 miles DIRECTLY SOUTH of that old rail line! (Check)
    – The Ferry schedule sucked in the past and still sucks (Check)
    – The usual lunatic/simpleton/crackbrain/waste-crack calls to “give” Staten Island back to New Jersey (Check)
    – The history of failed attempts to connect Staten Island to the subway system has nothing to do with why there isn’t a subway connection now (Check)
    – Robert Moses is a GOD! (Check)
    – Let’s build an LRT that connects to another LRT that connects to a small railroad to get to/from Manhattan or NJ. Let’s not ever, ever bother to check if those other systems have the capacity for additional riders besides the loads that they already carry! And let’s drum-beat for that LRT. (Check)
    – Robert Moses Is an Idiot (Check)
    – Just build a big bridge from Battery Park to…; over the Kill Van…; over New York Bay to… – it could be done in week and cost a couple of bucks (Check)
    – Let’s propose expensive transit “solutions” for the exterior portions of the island, leaving the more populated & dense interior sections to still have to deal with MTA buses – (Check)
    – The Staten Island Ferry is a huge drain on the city’s finances! (Check)
    – The SI-Ferry costs about 100-million out of a 80-billion dollar city budget, and in no way a “budget buster”! (Check)
    – It was a plot by current elected Staten Island to not connect Staten Island to the subway system! Let’s blame folks who were not even born when the subway’s went bankrupt! (Check)
    – A tourist fare on the SI-Ferry will save NYC! (Check)
    – We really charge students daily when they walk into a school building or a library! Students should pay for each book they borrow! (Check)
    – The Staten Island Ferry was the first private transit service taken over and operated as a municipal service after the bankruptcy of the private operators within the NYC region in 1905. Bankruptcies of the subway and commuter rail private operators in the NYC region would come later. (Check)
    – We should really push public transit usage since being 90-minutes and often 2-hours away from everything Manhattan has to offer is really good, but making the same trip in your car in 35 minutes is really, really bad! (Check)
    – The evil empire of the car-highway-suburb-mall” industrial complex has screwed everything up! (Check)
    – Staten Island only seems “small” in population, density and other measures because Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens are huge! (Check)
    – Well we haven’t actually solved any real problems, offered any real workable solutions, or gone back to the gold standard! (Check)
    – Public transit provision is expensive so we might as well use our money wisely. (Check)
    – Please, I could come up with a fantasy transit system in no time, without the need for community input and without any notion of feasibility or finances because I can use my markers on a map. (Check)

    – We’ve talked again about the same old issues again, shed some light or not, but at least we feel better! (Check)

    Mike

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