Home MTA EconomicsRavitch Commission Silver urges City to act on East River toll plan

Silver urges City to act on East River toll plan

by Benjamin Kabak

With the ever-popular clock ticking its way toward March 25, MTA bigwigs boarded an Amtrak train yesterday morning to pay a lobbying call to Albany. While visiting our state’s illustrious capital, the MTA officials urged the state’s legislators to pick up the issue of the Ravitch Recommendations before the Board is forced to implement rampant service cuts and fare hikes.

“We represent the riders, and we’re here to make their case, not our case. Hopefully the legislators are listening very carefully because they are elected by those very same people,” MTA Chair Dale Hemmerdinger said.

While Sheldon Silver, the scourge of congestion pricing, feels his Assembly will take action before the end of March — can we please remember this on Election Day next time around? — he did manage to punt on the biggest issue. When the topic of the East River Bridge Tolls came up, Silver urged the city to act. NY1’s Bobby Cuza was on hand in Albany to report on the hearings:

One of the solutions recently proposed by the Ravitch Commission to help fund the system is proving to be a tough sell — the plan to put tolls on the East River and Harlem River bridges, which are owned by the city.

The state Assembly appears unlikely to address the issue, just as it didn’t vote on the mayor’s congestion pricing plan last year. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said if the city wants East River bridge tolls, it can simply transfer those bridges to the MTA.

“We can’t just go in and impose tolls as a state, but the city can transfer to the MTA, lease to the MTA. There’s no legislation required for it to be done and it should just get done by the city,” said Silver.

Silver said the Assembly is ready to implement a new payroll tax, as recommended by the Ravitch Commission. The Senate leadership has so far not taken a position.

So it seems to me that the Assembly is willing to shoulder its share of the deal. I’m not going to don my party hat, though, until the payroll tax bill clears the two legislative bodies in Albany and David Paterson affixes his name to it. They really better hurry up on that.

Meanwhile, if this trip can be considered a guarded success, the MTA ought to act quickly to lobby the City Council. New York’s governing body will, much to the chagrin of MTA supporters, have to approve a sale of the bridges from the City to the MTA so that the transit authority could implement a tolling plan. Considering the overwhelming opposition to a plan that would impact far fewer people than a fare hike, that sale is far from guaranteed.

Later tonight at 6 p.m., the MTA will host the first of its public hearings on the fare hike. It’s time for our voices to be heard. As Silver said, the city must act to save the MTA.

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rhywun January 14, 2009 - 9:03 am

I don’t understand why the city requires state approval to toll bridges it owns and are located entirely within the city, but that’s politics I guess.

Benjamin Kabak January 14, 2009 - 11:08 am

I’m not sure if I made this clear in the post, but the city does not require approval. That’s what Silver’s saying. It’s up to the City Council to move on the East River Tolling plan.

rhywun January 14, 2009 - 11:32 am

Oh. I guess I just assumed state approval was necessary because, well, it’s necessary for practically everything else the city wants to do.

cmdrtebok January 14, 2009 - 10:56 am

Considering that the functioning of the NY economy is important to our national security it should be treated as such. I think we need some of that home land security money that is buying useless gas attack equipment for Wyoming and give it to the mta.

Mr. Eric January 14, 2009 - 11:45 am

I like the fact that Silver is putting the ball in Mayor Mike’s court. Let him toll the bridges and gaurantee that he won’t get re-elected which will be GREAT for the city to lose this clown.

j. mork January 14, 2009 - 12:22 pm

Mr. Eric —

I think I agree that the benefits of bridge tolls would be worth even having Weiner as Mayor.

But that aside, I would think that Bloomberg would be seen as a hero if he could stop a huge fare hike that would hurt the huge majority of commuters to Manhattan who take the subway to work much more than tolls would hurt the relatively few people who drive alone to Manhattan.

You can see fact sheets that reflect commuting mode for the different boros here:

Cap'n Transit January 14, 2009 - 2:28 pm

Now why didn’t he say that last July?

Alon Levy January 15, 2009 - 1:05 am

Because that was a plan that came out of Bloomberg’s ego, rather than a solution to a previously identified problem.


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