“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.