Should the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges Have Tolls?

Brooklyn Bridge image via Wikipedia and Robert Rodriguez photo via his website


    A plan to fix New York City’s gridlock problem has made its way to Albany. If approved, it could mean Brooklynites will pay tolls on the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges.

    Based on the Move New York Fair Plan [PDF], the legislation was introduced Wednesday by State Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez and co-sponsored by 14 State Assembly members.

    Intended to improve traffic and public transit throughout New York, the proposal includes creating an $8 toll ($5.54 with E-ZPass) on every East River bridge and shuffling existing tolls to alleviate traffic jams, Crain’s reported. Drivers would also pay tolls when crossing certain intersections in Manhattan.

    The revenue raised will be used to fund public transit.

    Backers claim the proposal will thin congested traffic in Manhattan and on East River bridges, particularly at peak times, by encouraging drivers to use routes around the periphery of New York City rather than cutting through Manhattan.

    Rodriguez has stated the plan will “inject $4.5 billion into transit expansion and accessibility projects,” citywide, according to Crain’s.

    nyc bridge tolls

    Brooklyn Bridge. Photo by Mary Hautman

    Who’s in favor
    Rodriguez maintains his legislation provides a “sustainable revenue source, reduced congestion,” and “equalizes our tolling system.”

    In particular, tolls on East River bridges will reduce gridlock on the bridges at peak times, according to backers.

    The proposal also has the support of mass-transit groups, editorial boards, business groups and environmental organizations who are all proponents of the concept of smoothing traffic with tolls.

    Mayor de Blasio has expressed support of the plan in the past, although not passionately.

    While it’s not in human nature to like the idea of paying for something that was formerly free, if successful the Move New York Fair Plan could benefit both pedestrians and drivers by decongesting traffic and pouring funds into other areas of city transit.

    Who’s not
    Many politicians are wary of the proposal due to a similar but failed Bloomberg-era congestion-pricing plan from 2008, according to Crain’s. As well, Queens legislators, whose constituents enjoy toll-free crossings from Manhattan to Queens, will almost definitely oppose the fee imposition on East River bridges in their areas.

    Individuals in Brooklyn and others who use the now toll-free East River bridges daily — whether for commuting, making deliveries or other reasons — are also unlikely to support it. Back in 2008, Marty Markowitz opposed the original plan.

    There’s no guarantee the proposal will work. It’s possible fees could be imposed and yet traffic could continue to be clogged. Also, some might argue in favor of funding public transit from other sources of tax revenue.

    nyc bridge tolls

    Williamsburg Bridge. Photo by Mary Hautman

    Five facts:

    • Digital-recording technology would collect the money, so the tolls don’t slow traffic
    • The Metropolitan Transportation Authority would have authority over adjusting toll prices
    • The imposed tolls would generate $1.35 billion annually
    • Of the total raised sum, slightly under $1 billion, or about 75 percent would go to mass transit, Move New York Fair Plan’s campaign director Alex Matthiessen stated, Crain’s reported
    • As a result of the new funds, express-bus rides would be discounted $1 and the MTA’s $8 billion deficit could be partially amended

    Will it work?

    Do you think the tolls will be worth it if the plan works, or would you rather keep things the way they are? Let us know in the comments.

    [Source: Crain’s]

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