Home MTA EconomicsRavitch Commission NYT: In support of bridge tolls

NYT: In support of bridge tolls

by Benjamin Kabak

If drivers win, riders lose,” says The New York Times editorial board. I couldn’t agree more. It’s an important message and one worth quoting at length:

Facing big deficits, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is threatening big fare increases — from $2 to $3 for a subway ride, for instance — for everyone who uses public transit. Gov. David Paterson and other politicians are trying to head this off, or reduce the pain. Here’s one suggestion: Ask drivers to start paying tolls on the bridges that cross the Harlem and East Rivers.

Just about every commuter pays a fee of some sort — except for drivers who use those bridges. This is manifestly unfair to millions of others who take the bus, subway or railroad in this area to get to work.

Charging drivers their fair share was an important part of proposals offered last year by a commission led by Richard Ravitch, who once ran the authority. To put the entire system on a stronger financial footing, and to avoid both drastic fare increases and service cuts, the commission’s plan required contributions from riders, businesses and people who drive cars.

Riders would endure a modest increase in the cost of their trips. Businesses, governments and unions in the 12-county area around New York City would do their part with a modest tax per employee. And drivers would start paying new bridge tolls.

The paper of record urges Mayor Bloomberg to voice unconditional support because the East River tolls can help him achieve his congestion-cutting goals. It also urges Sheldon Silver and David Paterson to throw their voices behind this plan.

In the end, though, it’s an issue of fairness to all, and The Times recognizes this as well. They conclude, “If everyone contributes, no one would have to suffer the drastic cuts in service and draconian increases in fares now proposed by the M.T.A.”

It may not be the most popular path, but it is the one the city as a whole needs to support both its economy and its mass transit system.

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herenthere February 10, 2009 - 2:08 pm

The only thing is, unless the NY Post and Daily News get on board, I doubt bridge tolls stand a chance. Those newspapers offer some of the most sensationalistic journalism there is but appeals to the mass demographic, which are precisely the people who will be most affected.

rhywun February 10, 2009 - 2:12 pm

Ha, good luck with the Post. The Daily News, maybe.

Boris February 10, 2009 - 2:28 pm

The article doesn’t make two important points. One, it doesn’t address the knee-jerk reaction that would come from the average person reading this: “but I already pay for the roads through [insert your tax here]! But living in New York is already expensive!”

Two, it doesn’t mention that Sheldon Silver claims the state has nothing to do with bridge tolls; the city needs to simply sell the bridges to the MTA, and the MTA is free to impose tolls.

j. mork February 11, 2009 - 9:08 am

The Daily News has supported tolls in the past.

Couldn’t find it on the DN site, but I found this record of it:


The date isn’t there, but the copy states that it’s from the day after London congestion pricing went into effect.

j. mork February 11, 2009 - 9:09 am

Check that — here’s the link on the DN site


Alfred Beech February 11, 2009 - 7:43 pm

When the bridge opened in 1883, it cost $.10 to drive a one horse wagon on the roadway. In 2007 dollars that would be $2.20 (it was 5 cents for a horse or cow, 3 for a pig or sheep, and 3 cents for a person)

I thought some historical trivia might be an interesting addition to this story. I don’t think anyone would call $2.20 an excessive charge to cross the bridge in a car these days.


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