Home Congestion Fee Move NY coalition unveils Traffic Pricing 2: Electric Bugaloo

Move NY coalition unveils Traffic Pricing 2: Electric Bugaloo

by Benjamin Kabak
Could this be the plan that saves the MTA's capital budget? (Source: Move NY)

Could this be the plan that saves the MTA’s capital budget? (Source: Move NY)

Flippant headline aside, someone — or a group of someones — is thinking creatively about the MTA’s capital funding problem. It’s been a long time coming, but Sam Schwartz and the Move NY coalition unveiled their restructured traffic pricing plan on Tuesday. If implemented properly, it could generate $1.5 billion that the group says could be bonded out to support the MTA’s capital plan. It may kick the debt can even further down the road, but it’s the most promising proposal we’ve seen at a time when Gov. Cuomo has seemingly left the MTA out to dry.

The details of the plan — now being called the Move NY Fair Plan — contain a mixture of new revenue streams in the form of East River bridge tolls and givebacks in the form of reduced current tolls that should appease everyone. No one will be double-tolled, and all money would be collected electronically so toll gates and the alleged traffic they could cause will be a non-factor.

The plan, in a nutshell, is simple, and I’d urge you to read Streetsblog’s primer. Essentially, tolls on current MTA bridges would drop while the currently-free East River bridge crossings would carry a charge, restoring a 104-year-old wrong. The money would go toward transit, and the corresponding drop in clogged streets would be a major boon for all New Yorkers. The plan would see a new taxi surcharge as well as congestion pricing for automobile trips south of 60th St. in Manhattan, and off-peak tolls would be cheaper than rush hour charges.

In return, Move New York promises massive transit investments. In their report [pdf], they highlight how the MTA would have a steady revenue stream that would lead to implementation of the agency’s capital plans. The coalition believes the MTA would have the money to restore bus service cut in 2010, reduce the City Ticket fares on Metro-North and LIRR, speed up SBS and BRT implementation, and address the subway system’s technological and physical issues that come with age and the need for modernization. All in all, it sounds good.

Interestingly, while as Dana Rubinstein astutely noted, Gov. Cuomo and the MTA were silent on the plan yesterday, it’s drawn support from unlikely sources. Mark Weprin, a City Council member who opposed then-Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan, voiced his support as did Ydanis Rodriguez, chair of the Council’s transportation committee. The prospects for a home-rule message though remain murky as the New York State Senate GOP, with no better ideas or funding solutions, has come out against the plan. Without acknowledging that no funding solution will lead to less service and drastically higher fares, a State GOP spokesman said, with a straight face, “Hardworking New Yorkers are paying enough already.” Talk about obliviousness.

Anyway, I digress. The editorial boards for The Post and Crain’s New York, two of the tougher constituents to impress here, voiced their support, and real estate and business interests may actually line up behind this plan. Streetsblog again explored the changing political dynamics behind the Move NY Fair Plan, but as Stephen Miller noted, “The key to the plan, though, is Governor Cuomo.” If the Governor supports this idea, it will become reality; if he doesn’t, the MTA is up a $15.2 billion creek with fare hikes and service cuts as their only paddle. Make of that what you will.

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lop February 18, 2015 - 12:29 am

“[T]he MTA would have a steady revenue stream [for the next twenty years] that would lead to implementation of the agency’s capital plans [over the next five].”

After that – who knows? Who cares?

Sounds good.

Bolwerk February 19, 2015 - 11:29 am

Who cares? Not debt scolds. A five year capital plan is a slew of projects completed over a five-year period. After that, there is decades of useful life left in many of them.

D in Bushwick February 18, 2015 - 12:42 am

The skimmers are already scheming…

al February 18, 2015 - 12:10 pm


Duke February 18, 2015 - 1:30 am

This makes sense simply from a traffic management perspective. Tolls as they currently exist encourage people to bridge shop and drive through Manhattan to save money, creating undue congestion in the process. Under this plan tolls would encourage people to follow less congested routes around Manhattan to save money.

It is also fairer in the sense that it places the highest toll burden on drivers who have the most practical transit alternatives. Why should a round trip from Queens to the Bronx which cannot conveniently be done via public transit cost $11.08 while a round trip to Manhattan which is easily accomplished by subway or LIRR is free?

The added revenue for the MTA is, of course, also a plus.

adirondacker12800 February 18, 2015 - 4:38 am

You can get from Queens to the Bronx without paying a toll. 59th Street Bridge and then one of the many bridges into the Bronx that are free.

Bobby February 18, 2015 - 8:51 am

Yes but you have to drive through the heart of the city to do it, on streets full of pedestrians in both boroughs. With this plan you’d have incentive to use the Tri-Borough via highways instead and you wouldn’t have to go out of your way.

anon_coward February 18, 2015 - 9:23 am

FDR drive and depending where you go in the bronx they have parkways as well

Bobby February 18, 2015 - 10:39 am

Accessing the free bridges in the Bronx requires using Third Ave., Willis Ave., etc., you can’t access them directly using highways. I believe the same goes for the 59th St. Bridge. You can’t just hop off the FDR and onto the bridge via a ramp without going through the east side a bit first.

adirondacker12800 February 18, 2015 - 1:20 pm

You don’t want to pay a toll there are going to be some compromises.

Bobby February 18, 2015 - 2:54 pm

So because someone doesn’t want to pay a toll pedestrians/cyclists in the Bronx and East Side need to contend with unnecessary vehicle traffic on their streets? Some compromise.

adirondacker12800 February 18, 2015 - 3:48 pm

some people have a toll-avoidance-fetish. They use fuel, add wear and tear to the car, sit in traffic, all to avoid a toll that costs less than the fuel and wear and tear. It’s a good reason to put a toll on the 59th Street Bridge.

David February 18, 2015 - 4:38 pm

On the rare occasions when I leave Manhattan by car, I always take the Willis from the FDR instead of the Triboro. Often times I find it saves time and of course it saves the toll. I would probably avoid the Triboro no matter what.

SEAN February 18, 2015 - 8:52 pm

some people have a toll-avoidance-fetish. They use fuel, add wear and tear to the car, sit in traffic, all to avoid a toll that costs less than the fuel and wear and tear. It’s a good reason to put a toll on the 59th Street Bridge.

My GF is like that in a way – in that she will drive over the Tapen Zee to avoid the higher tolls on the GWB even if it’s out of the way.

Don D. February 18, 2015 - 9:20 pm

I agree with you, Bobby. Compromises mean both parties benefit from the decision. Great lesson in life!

Henry February 18, 2015 - 2:55 pm

The point is that this is overall bad for the traffic network, and it would make a lot more sense to just toll traffic into the CBD and reduce tolls for non-CBD crossings to reduce congestion and redirect towards highway-connected crossings (like the Triboro, VZ, Whitestone, and Throgs Neck) rather than dump them into gridlocked city streets.

Tower18 February 18, 2015 - 2:58 pm

What you are not realizing is that the compromises you’re describing are not solely the driver’s to bear. Toll avoidance creates uneven traffic patterns for everyone else, and creates a lot of unnecessary traffic on local streets, including First and Second avenues, and a host of side streets.

There are no uptown entrances to the FDR between 48th and 96th, so anyone coming over the 59th St bridge has to use First or Third avenues all the way uptown, or backtrack downtown 10 blocks on Second Avenue (which you’d never do because of the aforementioned traffic disaster on Second).

Tower18 February 18, 2015 - 3:05 pm

Correction, there’s the 62nd st entrance, but the point stands about all that traffic now clogging 62nd between the FDR and the bridge exit.

Bronx February 24, 2015 - 2:39 am

Coming from the Bronx, you can’t just jump into the Queensboro Bridge from the FDR. Coming from Queens you screw LIC.

lawhawk February 18, 2015 - 10:12 am

Rationalizing the toll system so that traffic flows better? That would reduce congestion at the Brooklyn Bridge since more traffic would go into Manhattan via the Tunnel, reducing wear/tear on the BQE and Brooklyn/Manhattan bridges. Likewise, traffic would spread out among the Williamsburg, 59th, RFK, and QMT to get into Manhattan (and the reverse would also be smoothed out).

The devil is in the details of how much revenue to raise versus the status quo. And where the new revenue would go. Drivers will demand it all goes to pay for bridge/road upkeep, but the only thing keeping the roads from being impassible is that mass transit takes far more people into Manhattan than all the bridges and tunnels do on any given day.

What might get this proposal the added support among the politicians? Explicitly dedicating where the revenue goes – a portion to road/bridge upkeep, a portion to specific capital projects (like SAS Phase 2 or specifically addressing SI commutes without relying on ferries), and debt reduction. The latter isn’t a sexy thing to talk about, but reducing the debt (retiring the old/refinanced ancient debt) would allow the agency to spend more down the road, and then take on debt to do capital projects down the road.

Larry Littlefield February 18, 2015 - 8:48 am

“If implemented properly, it could generate $1.5 billion that the group says could be bonded out to support the MTA’s capital plan. It may kick the debt can even further down the road.”

Dealbreaker. What happens in five years? Both tolls and the MTA would be discredited.

anon_coward February 18, 2015 - 9:27 am

even if it’s a smaller toll, it’s still fair to have people who use the bridge pay for its maintenance. i drive but never drive into manhattan and yet i have to pay for people from long island to drive in and use the bridge

Bolwerk February 18, 2015 - 3:23 pm

Can you support bonding it out if the bonded amount is bearable and the life of the bond is less than the life of the infrastructure you buy with it? For 30yr bonds, example projects include: signals, rail cars, station renovations, track work.

It looks like they expect to bond out most of the annual revenue. Maybe 2/3, leaving around 1/2 million for operational support?

Larry Littlefield February 18, 2015 - 6:05 pm

Only if you are prepared to personally guarantee no more bonding, and no new revenues, will ever be needed again.

What is going to happen in five years?

Bolwerk February 19, 2015 - 12:17 am

In other words, shut the system down? :-p

Larry Littlefield February 19, 2015 - 7:33 am

That is what you are suggesting. Keep going deeper and deeper into debt to pay for ongoing (normal replacement) expenses until the point is reached at which the system collapses.

That’s the official MTA accounting. As long as they can stop investing and keep collecting money, as the system falls apart (depreciation) no faster than the debts are paid off, the debts are affordable. An obligation to continue to provide transit service into the future is nowhere on the MTA’s balance sheet.

Because Generation Greed expects to be gone.

Look to Illinois to see the Generation Greed endgame.

Bolwerk February 19, 2015 - 11:08 am

The liabilities I mentioned already exist – or, if you want to be technical, they will materialize, if they haven’t already, and there is no stopping them. We aren’t going deeper into debt if we match a cash stream to specific liabilities we already have, but we are avoiding deferring maintenance while we wait for income.

anon_coward February 19, 2015 - 11:27 am

true, but if you have a lot of free cash flow then the unions will strike and demand annual 10% pay raises like they have done in the past along with no medical co-pays. they will suck up the money instead of using it for investment and maintenance.

bonding it out is not perfect but you can make sure that money is used for the infrastructure and not a new Escalade for someone

Bolwerk February 19, 2015 - 1:05 pm

Might be true. The debt howlers tend to miss that point: you can let debt grow and reduce unnecessary operating costs; plus other costs are growing faster than revenue too. Call me crazy, but I’d rather have a working train to board for the next 30 years than, say, a token booth clerk I might need once every few years.

This is a good time to bond out revenue if low interest rates can be locked in. They can’t get much lower.

lawhawk February 19, 2015 - 1:51 pm

Yup. Low interest rates would make bonding far more effective since you’d have lower repayment costs over the life of the bonding. Some refinancing of bonding might also make sense, though extending old debt makes less sense than trying to pay it off to reduce the overall debt load.

johndmuller February 19, 2015 - 6:34 pm

Does anyone know what percentage of MTA/City/State bonds get paid off versus being refinanced once/twice/…/forever?

Bolwerk February 19, 2015 - 11:29 pm

I don’t know, but MTA debt service payments seem pretty well publicized ($2,482 million proposed in 2015, PDF pg 12).

Not sure literal retirement of an instrument matters in the scheme of things. Bonds are structured to be easy to trade, not because they represent the debt load. There are always some being retired and new ones being issued.

johndmuller February 24, 2015 - 6:01 pm

Bolwerk says:
Not sure literal retirement of an instrument matters in the scheme of things. Bonds are structured to be easy to trade, not because they represent the debt load. There are always some being retired and new ones being issued.

I’m talking about actually retiring debt; not just rolling over one set of bonds into another, but literally paying it off. That surely makes a difference in the scheme of things since not only are the carrying costs (the interest) directly related to how much debt there is, but also beyond a certain point, the interest rate itself begins to reflect a perception that there is a lot of debt and therefore the default risk becomes higher. I, for one, would feel a lot more sanguine about all this debt if the annual costs cited were the costs to pay off the debt over some reasonable time, not just the minimum interest payment to keep the wolves from the door.

Bolwerk February 26, 2015 - 9:59 am

Right, I figured.

It seems clear outstanding debt is growing faster than it is being paid off, in any case. If indeed outstanding debt is at $34.1B, and they’re paying $2.5B/year off (that implies an interest rate greater than 14%), they’re seemingly paying more than they must, but that doesn’t mean total debt isn’t growing faster than they’re paying it off.

* taking $34.1B is outstanding principal, but the number was cited by Straphangers; see this thread

Spendmor Wastemor February 20, 2015 - 1:05 am

@Larry Littlefield on February 19, 2015 at 7:33 am

The above post is awarded the Spendmor Seal of Approval.

The problem for NYC is not the $$, there are enough. It is the people burning them, such as for the multi-billion $ Path station. Few people in the city use Path stations, even fewer give them a second thought. That was enough for an under-river tunnel, or an over-river walkway staffed with army of Bloombergian scolds requiring people to get their oatmeal exercise.

Although, requiring people to exercise has a certain attraction to it, now that the weather is righteous. When I was a young pedestrian it was 47 below absolute zero and we dodged icicles speared toward us by the headwind which blew both ways plus down from the glowering sky. The luckier ones had iron from which to hammer their own shields…
all pampered like minks, citizens these days


Bolwerk February 18, 2015 - 9:24 am

“Hardworking New Yorkers are paying enough already.”

Translation: lazy welfare queens on trains and buses don’t work, and drivers do.

Larry Littlefield February 18, 2015 - 11:16 am

Other translation: since Skelos’ funders in the LIRR unions have already taken theirs off the top (effective government), others can make any required sacrifices (against big government).

Bolwerk February 18, 2015 - 3:24 pm

Probably much the same thing. Ours, not theirs.

Jerrold February 18, 2015 - 3:34 pm

What about the hundreds of thousands of working New Yorkers who commute by mass transit?

Also, how many people on welfare are truly employable?
Not only THAT, conservatives who criticize those “welfare queens” tend to also be passionate right-to-lifers. They are angry at poor people for having children that they can’t support, and yet want to make them have MORE children by preventing them from having abortions.
Maybe most of this is off-topic, but I am not the one who first mentioned so-called “welfare queens”.

Jerrold February 18, 2015 - 10:56 am

Didn’t you mean ELECTRONIC?
And maybe you meant BUGABOO?

Jerrold February 18, 2015 - 12:23 pm

I had second thoughts about it,
and did a little research.

EgoTripExpress February 18, 2015 - 12:00 pm

I would prefer Sam Schwartz to put more of his energies to have all the toll plazas replaced with high-speed EZ-Pass and put more red light cameras on the street. That way the whole infrastructure for congestion pricing would already be in place for a trial run. Call it backdoor congestion pricing, but I think it’s a lot easier than trying to convince our obtuse, luddite politicians that congestion pricing is an actual thing that is worth trying out and didn’t ruin other cities. Like NYCDOT’s pedestrian plazas were really just paint and planters rather than a big ticket, capital improvement plan that required six rounds of studies and Federal funding.

Henry February 18, 2015 - 2:57 pm

We have cashless EZ-Pass tolling on the Henry Hudson, but expanding it is complicated right now; IIRC, the MTA and Connecticut have signed agreements which limit how the MTA can pursue unpaid tolls from Connecticut drivers.

EgoTripExpress February 18, 2015 - 8:49 pm

Yes and on certain lanes on the Outerbridge Crossing too. IMO things like debt-collecting in Connecticut is all the more reason for Schwartz and his allies to use their lobbying efforts to better use.

Billy G February 18, 2015 - 12:51 pm

Stop trying to squeeze the self-made entrepreneurs.

Raise subway fares to make the funding gap.

Leave the East River bridges alone! They stitch the city together into a single entity. If tolls happen there, expect much more NJ traffic.

Justin Samuels February 18, 2015 - 1:34 pm

They are raising subway fares.

But subway fares along cannot be used to bond out money for capital projects in mass transit. Los Angeles borrowed 30 billion from the federal government for mass transit (train expansions),and it was payable by a raise in the sales tax.

Nothing is for free, and you get what you pay for. Any improvements in public services, much less expansions will be paid for by money coming from somewhere. The question is where.

I have no problems with charging people tolls to go to any part of Manhattan below 59th Street.

Jonah March 2, 2015 - 7:51 pm

LA requested $30 billion, bonded against measure R revenue, but so far has gotten much less, I believe around $1 billion in TIFIA for the Crenshaw line. Thanks congress!

VLM February 18, 2015 - 1:41 pm

What “self-made entrepreneurs” would be squeezed more by a plan to rationalize the city’s bridge tolling structure than by markedly higher transit fares and a collapsing system that can’t keep up with demand? This is a fantasy argument with no basis in reality.

AG February 19, 2015 - 11:25 pm

Many “self made entrepreneurs” understand that traffic congestion is a drain on businesses. If that entrepreneur has to pay higher fuel costs for sitting in traffic and pay a driver to deliver their products who is “on the clock”… They might very well be willing to pay a toll to avoid that. So if congestion pricing relieves some of the congestion – they are not losing anything. I’m talking from experience.

Billy G February 20, 2015 - 10:30 am

Then the option to take the tunnels exists. If you want the fast delivery, take the tunnel and pay the toll.

AG February 21, 2015 - 3:29 pm

You realize there is traffic everywhere right? You pay to take the tunnel and end up in traffic once you emerge!!
The point of the plan is to lessen congestion in the most crowded areas… People have to look at the big picture.

Billy G February 24, 2015 - 6:12 am

Yes, when everyone’s tolled, the traffic volume doesn’t change, so it’s all nearly the same speed as before, and you’ve LOST any chance of being able to pay for high-priority runs. Good job!

AG February 24, 2015 - 9:48 am

So you are going to try to tell me with a straight face that tolls don’t discourage driving??? Really?
In any event – the important component is using the funding to increase transit options.

In any event – London is pleased with the results..

tacony February 18, 2015 - 12:51 pm

I think the 60th Street toll is a big can of worms. I’m imagining a lot of people will want to be dropped off around 61st-59th and walk across, or take the train to/from there. The 59th Street subway stations and bus stops will suddenly become bigger hubs than they already are. When you put an artificial boundary in the middle of the island you create unintended consequences… will we have lots of cars idling at 61st and 59th (more than already do)?

What about driving from Queens off the bridge to go to Sutton Place? Currently you’d make the first right off the bridge, a right on 62nd Street, and another right to go south down York below 59th to Sutton Place. But under this plan it looks like you’d get hit with tolls for going above and below 60th Street, so I guess you’d have to drive down to 2nd and back around to avoid them. Or the toll plan could allow free toll crossings within a reasonable span of time after a toll was already paid? It seems hard to create a simple rule that’d cover everybody here.

The idea of toll equity between those driving across a bridge and those driving across an arbitrary line in the street based on employment and congestion is tricky. Bridges have tolls ostensibly to pay for the bridge’s upkeep, although we know that money is fungible and that’s no longer true. If it’s truly a “congestion charge,” should the 60th Street toll drop to zero at 3am on a Tuesday when there’s no congestion in Midtown? Or at that hour they’re paying for the upkeep of the Whitestone and the MTA etc etc? London’s Congestion Charge seems to be the only precedent for the concept of literally charging just to drive down a street through a congested zone, and it doesn’t apply during late nights and weekends.

It just seems much more straightforward to toll the Harlem River Bridges if it weren’t for the “equity” play. I guess soaking rich UES drivers to pay for bridges in Brooklyn and Staten Island makes political sense but the connection between the user and the payer in the toll is stretched in an odd way there. Even though it’s not true, people still imagine that their toll pays for the bridge as they pay it, and the 60th Street crossing is too obviously not paying for the mode of crossing itself.

Henry February 18, 2015 - 2:58 pm

The cordon seems to give the lower toll to those using the QB to go north. 60th St is a fairly logical boundary given that most of the CBD is below 60th, and it’s also the southern end of Central Park, so it’s not geographically arbitrary.

Nathanael February 19, 2015 - 8:57 am

This is OK. The 596h / 60th St. stations are mostly undercrowded, due to the high number of lines in the area.

Tower18 February 20, 2015 - 11:16 am

Hmm I don’t know about that. 59th/Lex is dangerously crowded. Perhaps 59th/5th and 57/7th have some room, I’m not as familiar. Columbus Circle could accomodate more riders, but the theoretical mode-switching passengers would likely be on the East side anyway.

I’m not sure you’d have a big parking lot just north of 60th…where would all the cars go? There’s only so much parking, and no more will be built, as that land is extremely valuable.

Boris February 22, 2015 - 10:07 pm

The charge would be paid once a day for an unlimited number of zone crossings. So the hypothetical driver would first be registered crossing the Queensboro Bridge and pay the charge whether or not he actually drives down below 60th.

lop February 22, 2015 - 11:14 pm

For commercial vehicles moveny wants a limit of one round trip toll per calendar day, did that apply to non commercial vehicles as well? I didn’t see it mentioned. If you take the QBB to Manhattan and turn north you pay the lower triborough toll of 3.04, not the 5.54 cordon toll.

lop February 22, 2015 - 11:21 pm

If you take the triborough moveny gives you an hour to get south of 60th street to avoid double tolling. Unless it would improve traffic flow to have cars not make the manoeuver you describe then it would be easy enough to accommodate in the same way.

anon_coward February 26, 2015 - 10:15 am

that implies that there is more than one person in a car. if people are car pooling they will just split the toll/parking rather than drop someone off and have someone find a garage with free space.

most people in cars are by themselves and will have to pay the toll or take a train/bus

BrooklynBus February 18, 2015 - 1:17 pm

Off-peak tolls would be cheaper is no guarantee of anything. They could fulfill that promise by lowering off-peak tolls by 50 cents.

Also, what would be considered off-peak? On the GWB and other PA crossings, Sundays are also considered “peak”.

Why should any toll be charged on the currently free bridges at 2AM? How is that lowering congestion on the streets and where is the congestion at 2 AM?

Also, will the MTA continue to hike tolls every two years anyway if this plan goes into effect?

How will the increased subway crowding be handled? By four new bus routes operating at 30 minute headways as was proposed last time?

Where is the proof that any money will be spent to increase bus service? Will the service planning crowding guidelines that currently determine bus service headways be altered so that bus service becomes more frequent, or will service levels on most bus routes remain unchanged? How many new routes will be provided and will they be provided at more frequent service levels than 30 minute headways which seems to be the norm for new routes?

Will the existing funding sources that are used to maintain bridges and streets remain in place or will their funding merely be shifted to this new source of revenue, reducing the amount of funding available for transit purposes.

How long will the lower tolls remain in place or will they start doubling in five years until they reach the same amount as the Manhattan tolls?

Until all these questions are answered, I have problems endorsing this plan.

VLM February 18, 2015 - 1:42 pm

LOL. Even if all of those questions were answered — and if you actually read the materials, most are — you still wouldn’t support the plan.

BrooklynBus February 19, 2015 - 11:05 am

You don’t know that. You are only guessing. Actually if this plan goes through it would actually help me personally since I use the outer bridges much more often than I use the Manattan free bridges. But I am not thinking only of myself.

lop February 18, 2015 - 9:04 pm

The MoveNY plan fixes the toll on the Whitestone, Triborough, Throgs Neck, Verrazzano tolls at 55% of the Manhattan CBD tolls. The Henry Hudson at 28%, the Rockaway bridges at 19%. This would be done legislatively, the MTA would be unable to change the ratios on their own without the help of the assembly, the senate, and the governor. They could raise tolls systemwide, but the Whitestone toll would remain at 55% of the Brooklyn Bridge toll.

The MTA should hike fares and tolls every couple years to keep up with inflation. In all likelihood if MoveNY gets their plan enacted by the time it’s up and running the tolls will have been raised again in 2017.

The reason to charge tolls at 2am is because this plan is supposed to end toll shopping. If you want a lower toll on the Brooklyn Bridge at 2am, you’ll need a higher one during the day to be revenue neutral. You’ll also need to do the same with the MTA tunnels. This adds another complication to the plan, and makes it less likely to be enacted. Because the governor is in no mood to back a peak hour hike on MTA tunnels to lower the tolls off peak. Get MoveNY enacted, then come back a year after with a peak/offpeak revenue neural toll plan.

adirondacker12800 February 18, 2015 - 9:49 pm

The tolls on Cross Bay Blvd. should, at the very least, be set to maintain that very very long causeway. for the few people who live out in the Rockaways.

lop February 18, 2015 - 10:52 pm

You mean the Addabbo? Hope they remember to paint this one so it doesn’t have to get replaced as soon as the last one did.

BrooklynBus February 19, 2015 - 11:22 am

The entire purpose with coming up with a long range strategy for MTA funding was precisely to avoid having the MTA raise tolls every two years. So precisely what are we getting here except having to shell out more money?

Another example of promises being made and not kept. The original congestion pricing plan would have not been in affect in the evenings. How many fewer people will choose to go for dinner in Manattan or to see a show? Currently you can park for $12 to see a show and many areas have free parking after 7 PM.

Also, I don’t understand how much users of the Lincoln and Holland Tunnel woud pay to enter the CBD? Do they get a discount for using the PA crossings, do they pay $11.08 with EZ pass or do they pay no charge at all? All I see is a statement that PA crossings are unaffected.

VLM February 19, 2015 - 11:46 am

Some comments:

The entire purpose with coming up with a long range strategy for MTA funding was precisely to avoid having the MTA raise tolls every two years.

[Citation needed.]The MTA has given no indication thy will scrap biennial fare hikes. It’s the only way for them to keep pace with inflation and guarantee revenue for operations costs.

So precisely what are we getting here except having to shell out more money?

Any plan to fund the MTA will necessarily involve someone somewhere shelling out more money. The payroll tax is money we pay; the mortgage transfer taxes are money we pay, etc. In this case though, the plan is designed to improve surface traffic conditions while eliminating congestion while funding transit. It’s symbiotic and necessary.

Another example of promises being made and not kept. The original congestion pricing plan would have not been in affect in the evenings. How many fewer people will choose to go for dinner in Manattan or to see a show? Currently you can park for $12 to see a show and many areas have free parking after 7 PM.

What promises were made and not kept? Not any from Move NY. Once the Bloomberg plan was killed that criminal in Albany, there were no more promises on the table.

As to your fantasy land where fewer people are driving into Manhattan for dinner, so be it. If you can afford a show and dinner and parking, you won’t be deterred by an additional $4-$5 traffic pricing fee. Additionally, under this plan more of those people would take transit – which is of course the end goal.

Finally, you’re nitpicking the details of PA tolls. That’s an easily-solvable operations issues, and your comment here is why I highly doubt you’d support traffic pricing even if/when the answers are handed to you.

BrooklynBus February 19, 2015 - 6:12 pm

Although the MTA never promised to scrap biennial toll increases, when asked why they were necessary, the answer was that was because they didn’t have a steady funding source. Since this plan would bring in an additional $1.2 billion annually, the need to retain biennial toll hikes is dubious. That was one of the reasons for the original congestion pricing plan, to halt these benniel increases.

Remember when toll money was originally allocated to transit when tolls were first doubled from 25 to 50 cents? We also were promised that also was supposed to solve the MTA’s funding problems. Did it? No. Will the MTA still continue to plead poverty if this plan goes into affect? Yes.

As far as “eliminating congestion” that won’t happen either. Those who drive during rush hours will continue to drive. What are they predicting? A six perecent reduction in congestion. That is a drop in the bucket. If you just enforce the laws against double parking, you would reduce congestion by more than 6%. And if it drops by only 3%, that will provide an excuse to increase EZ pass tolls from $11 round trip to $15 round trip during rush hours, from $16 to $20 for non EZ pass holders and those rates will rise every two years.

In the early afternoon, there is more congestion on the BQE than on the FDR northbound. Diverting more traffic to the BQE which this plan will do, will make congestion in north Brooklyn intolerable. What is the sense in just moving the congestion from Manattan to Brooklyn?

You say asking what Lincoln and Holland Tunnel users will pay is nitpicking? No. That is an important detail. Why should only city dwellers have to pay extra to enter the Manhattan CBD, if that is the case? If those from Jersey have to pay the PA toll and then not receive a discount on the congestion fee, well that woud not be fair either.

There are many unanswered questions and problems that need to be resolved with this plan.

adirondacker12800 February 19, 2015 - 7:53 pm

There will be toll and fare hikes unless you can convince all of the vendors to freeze their prices at the 2015 price forever.

BrooklynBus February 19, 2015 - 9:31 pm

I’m not saying there should eer be any more hikes. Some will eventually be needed. It’s just wrong to schedule them every two years even when there is no inflation.

lop February 19, 2015 - 11:30 pm

If there’s no inflation they can cancel the scheduled fare increase. Moderate inflation has been the goal of the federal reserve for decades. It makes sense to plan for it when it’s expected.

Bolwerk February 20, 2015 - 12:39 am

No matter what the currency does, the MTA doesn’t experience zero inflation. Wages were hiked in last year’s contract negotiation, and of course there’s increasing debt service.

And that’s not even considering adirondacker’s very prescient point about vendor/supplier prices.

Boris February 22, 2015 - 10:18 pm

” If you just enforce the laws against double parking, you would reduce congestion by more than 6%.”

What you are suggesting is a solution to the parking problem through either extremely expensive new enforcement or higher parking fees – essentially a congestion charge, but on parking.

How much are you willing to pay more in city taxes to hire the additional police force needed to fight double parking in the entire city? Also, ticketing drivers for double parking doesn’t make them go away – it just makes them circle (causing more congestion) until they find a legal parking spot. With parking meter rates being as low as they are, and often zero, legal parking spots are rare.

You are also overlooking the places where most of the congestion actually happens – on our highways. There is no parking allowed there at all; how do you solve congestion there?

johndmuller February 19, 2015 - 7:04 pm

BrooklynBus says:
Also, I don’t understand how much users of the Lincoln and Holland Tunnel woud pay to enter the CBD? Do they get a discount for using the PA crossings, do they pay $11.08 with EZ pass or do they pay no charge at all? All I see is a statement that PA crossings are unaffected.

I’d like to know the answer to that too. IIRC, the last time around I had the impression that the NJ drivers were getting a free ride and now this time they are trying to slip by again?

There are cases to be made – a) that the PA tolls already are an attempt at congestion pricing or b) that there should be coordinated toll increases on the Hudson tunnels to fund NJT – but there is also a good case that they should just pay up like everyone else.

adirondacker12800 February 19, 2015 - 7:55 pm

Cheapest toll – off peak EZpass collected at all times – is 9 dollars. The money the Port Authority collects allows it to do things like rebuild LaGuardia airport. Where the state and city collect income and sales taxes.

Nathanael February 20, 2015 - 4:42 am

The vast majority of people seeing shows in Manhattan are getting there by subway, or walking. Another large group are taking taxis.

There is no reason to cater to the crazed minority who want to park their freakin’ car in the most expensive real estate in the US.

Nathanael February 19, 2015 - 8:58 am

The congestion in midtown Manhattan at 2AM is pretty bad, actually.

Basically, for traffic sanity, you want to chase away as much through traffic as you can. Only traffic actually going to midtown or downtown should be going there.

tacony February 19, 2015 - 10:19 am

No way. There is generally no congestion at all at on weeknights at 2am between Midtown and the UES or UWS. You could lay down in the middle of the avenues. I don’t see how a 60th Street toll could reasonably be considered a “congestion” charge at that hour in any way.

There is sometimes congestion leading to and from the bridges and tunnels, especially if there were some major evening events (something at MSG for instance). But nothing at all due to traffic going uptown or downtown through 59th Street.

You can confirm this using Google Maps traffic feature… Come on now.

Nathanael February 20, 2015 - 4:33 am

If you’re doing cordon pricing, it doesn’t make sense to only look at one of the exits to the cordon. I was just saying that there is congestion in midtown and downtown Manhattan, not that that congestion was specifically crossing 59th St.

Bronx February 24, 2015 - 2:56 am

Bridges should also be tolled in NYC to discourage driving.

Bronx February 24, 2015 - 2:57 am

*always, not also.

Tower18 February 18, 2015 - 3:15 pm

I don’t believe London charges taxis the congestion charge (either explicitly or by a surcharge) and also the daily max should apply to everyone, not just trucks and commercial vehicles. Aside from other time limit caps, maybe it should be capped at 2 tolls per day for non-commercial vehicles.

Also there should *definitely* be different peak/off-peak rates, which are meaningful, not just $1 less.

tacony February 19, 2015 - 10:21 am

More importantly, the London Congestion Charge is ZERO at night and weekends!

Nathanael February 20, 2015 - 4:35 am

London is a lot emptier at night than New York — and also a lot emptier on weekends. Really, you have no idea.

Manhattan has a *truly startling* number of cars, trucks, and taxis on the road in the middle of the night. I guess because it’s the “city that never sleeps”….

Nathanael February 20, 2015 - 4:36 am

In the middle of London, you could sit down in the middle of the street in the middle of the night and watch for wildlife for a good 6 hours without ever seeing another person, let alone a car.

AG February 20, 2015 - 6:49 am

Yup – foxes rule the town… It’s amazing

Chris C February 21, 2015 - 10:14 am

ridiculous statement

name one main street in the middle London where you could do this?

I am often amazed at the number of people and cars/vans/buses on the streets of London in the middle of the night.

Nathanael February 21, 2015 - 6:22 pm


The West End stays up all night, and so do the railway terminals. But head east into the Congestion Charge zone, and it’s quite extraordinary how early it goes to bed.

Nathanael February 21, 2015 - 6:23 pm

My information is a few years old, so maybe it’s a bit busier now. But still. “Quiet” neighborhoods in lower Manhattan are *busy*…

Chris C February 21, 2015 - 9:06 pm

Kingsway is on several night bus routes so is never quiet.

Let alone all the taxis that use it. Oh and the private cars too. And the odd middle of the night cyclist on a Boris Bike.

You’d never last 6 seconds sitting in the middle of Kingsway let alone 6 hours.

And the congestion charge zone is basically the west end! (and does not apply at night or weekends)

You are seriously wrong if you think the centre of London is ever quiet!

AG February 20, 2015 - 6:56 am

Yup – interestingly the “life” in the middle of the night provided by a 24 hour subway system – also induces some driving

Jerrold February 18, 2015 - 5:15 pm

Is there some glitch going on?
I can’t seem to post a message onto any existing thread here.

Mike February 18, 2015 - 6:33 pm

All I have to say is ugh. The proposal may seem “fair” initially, but in the long-run, it will be just another tool for the MTA to exploit with far too frequent hikes.

Also, contrary to the statement in this article, the toll at 60th street will create double-tolling for many. Those who wish to travel to points below 60th street from points north of Manhattan will have to first pay a toll to enter Manhattan and then pay another toll to cross 60th street, and then repeat when leaving. Then there’s those who would be coming from points west and have to already pay the ridiculous tolls the Port Authority imposes on its crossings. A round-trip for someone from NJ to Long Island, or northern NJ (over the GWB) or upstate New York west of the Hudson could approach $25 in tolls. That could greatly chill revenue generated from day-tourism (such as people coming in for a day to see a show, go to a museum, have a nice dinner, etc.).

Lastly, I’d be interested in seeing how this plan would affect the cost of everyday goods.

adirondacker12800 February 18, 2015 - 6:42 pm

Seeing that most of the goods come from New Jersey or points beyond, almost no effect. New Jerseyans have no problem paying tolls to travel the NJ Turnpike or the Garden State Parkway and then have to pay much a much higher toll to cross the Hudson.

Mike February 18, 2015 - 6:55 pm

adirondacker – have you asked anyone from NJ whether they have a problem with the tolls in their state? The unfortunate fact is they have little recourse but to deal with the tolls, and the politicians and agencies know it and exploit it.

I would also dispute your contention that there would be no effect to costs of consumer goods in NJ. Large shipping trucks by and large use the GWB. So for any deliveries they have to make south of 60th street or to the outer boroughs, there will be an extra cost, and that may well be passed on to the consumer.

adirondacker12800 February 18, 2015 - 6:58 pm

They open up EZpass accounts and pay them. No one is forcing them to live in New Jersey and no one is forcing them to go to New York. The toll plazas back up fairly regularly. That means that the tolls are underpriced.

Benjamin Kabak February 18, 2015 - 7:35 pm

You’re overstating the impact tolls would have on the cost of goods.

Bolwerk February 18, 2015 - 9:28 pm

Re tolls: two big costs arguments like that ignore:

1) truckers are paid in wages whether stuck in traffic or not

2) idling and crawling over long periods of time waste fuel

Count that against the extra toll (or, if you prefer, the total toll).

adirondacker12800 February 18, 2015 - 10:00 pm

wastes utilization too. The truck is depreciating whether it’s clipping along at 65 on the NJ Turnpike or stuck in traffic on the helix. The insurance company doesn’t adjust the premium either. The truckers would love it if the toll was 40 bucks. Traffic might get better. Might.

Nathanael February 19, 2015 - 9:00 am

Tolling affects the behavior of car drivers more than truck drivers — higher tolls would get the cars out of the way of the trucks, which would go faster.

(The exception is toll-avoidance invitations like the “one way loop” where you can go through the Holland Tunnel one way and over the Verazanno the other while paying no toll at all. Any plan which gets rid of this nonsense is good.)

Tower18 February 19, 2015 - 10:14 am

I’ve never quite understood this…there’s still the Goethals/Outerbridge toll happening there, so all this does is force NJ-bound trucks through Manhattan, but it doesn’t change behavior *entering* Manhattan, right? Either way, you have to pay the PANYNJ toll to enter Staten Island or Manhattan. Unless you take it one step farther and enter NY up in the Hudson Valley…in which case, you’ve probably spent more in gasoline and time delay than you’ve saved in tolls, if you’re a trucker.

It’s stupid, but unless I’m missing something, it’s not like there’s a way to get a free round-trip…only a free outbound.

lop February 19, 2015 - 3:57 pm

East bound there’s no toll on the Verrazzano. Westbound to avoid it free Manhattan bridge to holland (or up to lincoln for trucks). Part of the point with MoveNY is to keep that through traffic from entering the CBD, by making it cheaper to go through the Bronx/GWB or Staten Island. You’re right, you still pay for the PA crossing travelling eastbound.

Nathanael February 20, 2015 - 4:39 am

If you’re going from NJ to Long Island — paying one toll from NJ to Staten Island, and then free the rest of the way around the loop (Verazzano, Manhattan Bridge, Lincoln Tunnel) is a lot cheaper than taking the direct route back and forth via either Staten Island or the Bronx. So a bunch of people including truckers do it.

Which is not cool since it’s adding unnecessary (non-local) traffic to midtown and downtown Manhattan, which is the most congested area.

Mike February 18, 2015 - 6:50 pm

I just want to clarify, when I say “ugh” I don’t mean that I am against the concept generally. Redistributing the toll burden among all the MTA’s crossings makes sense. But I do have concerns. Seeing what the Port Authority has perpetrated with its bridge and tunnels, through what could be described as a clandestine, corrupt, and abusive process, has made me very concerned about a similar abuse with the MTA’s crossing. The more places with tolls, the more potential for exploitation. I also have concerns about the 60th street aspect of the proposal for the reasons mentioned above.

lop February 18, 2015 - 9:13 pm

The ‘final’ MoveNY plan isn’t all that well put together, and misses a bunch of stuff. I wouldn’t read too much into that. I see no mention of drivers who used EZPass to cross the GWB being exempt from the 60th street cordon, but earlier versions of the plan included it. It’s made explicit that if you take the RFK into Manhattan then drive south, at 60th street you pay the difference between the cordon toll and the toll you paid on the RFK. I would assume it’s also done that way if you take the Henry Hudson, but it isn’t mentioned. If you aren’t going to the CBD you should detour through Staten Island or over the GWB and through the Bronx or over the RFK, not drive through the CBD. If you do so, your round trip toll will decrease with MoveNY. If you currently drive through midtown to use one of the free bridges, yes you’ll get hit with a 6.08 surcharge with the new detour around the CBD, or 11.08 if you go through it. That’s a feature of this plan, to stop people from cutting through the CBD to avoid tolls.

Yes the MTA will hike the tolls every two years to keep up with inflation.

BrooklynBus February 19, 2015 - 9:35 pm

If it will cost more to come into the CBD over the GW than with the tunnels, that will just increase the long waits at the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels in New Jersey.

adirondacker12800 February 19, 2015 - 10:13 pm

People prepared to pay 11 bucks to cross the bridge and then pay for parking in midtown aren’t going to be deterred. That there are long waits is evidence that the tolls are too low.

Nathanael February 20, 2015 - 4:40 am

Anyone willing to pay parking rates for private garages in Midtown is *not price sensitive*.

Ryan 6 February 20, 2015 - 1:34 pm

Overall I like this plan. Is it perfect? No way. My thought, and this may or may not end up as reality, is that if the tolls were spread out more equitably and free bridges eliminated the incentive to clog of the CBD would be removed, or drastically reduced. Not sure if the 60th street plan would matter as much at that point. You’d probably have diverted enough traffic from Queensboro and the other crossings to have the desired effect. Does that add up from a budget stanpoint, probably not… I lived at E 94th for many years and travelled out to Queens and LI almost every weekend. I hated getting crushed by the Tribe toll, but loathed traveling down 2nd ave even more. Were I still in that area i’d be all for this, I so rarely drove my car south of 60th anyway.

Anonymous April 9, 2015 - 2:19 pm

The Move NY plan inconveniences Brooklyn drivers especially, as in order to leave the state they will have to pay extra tolls or take mass transit. However, mass transit fares can be very expensive, especially when a family takes an out-of-state trip.


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