Originally posted to newsgroups during July 2007.
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After years of trying to place tolls on the remaining free bridges into
and out of Manhattan by previous Mayoral administrations up to and
including the current one, Mayor Bloomberg has come up with a (in his
mind?)clever way to circumvent legislative objections to such tolls:
From my understanding, tolls paid to enter or leave the City on a given
day will be DEDUCTED from the $8 charge for automobiles.
Thus, someone entering via ANY of the TBTA (MTA) facilities, namely, the
Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, the Queens-Midtown tunnel, or the Triboro
Bridge, which charge $4 EACH WAY, and leaving via any of those
facilities, will pay NOTHING in terms of a "congestion pricing" charge
($4 to enter + $4 to leave = $8, which is to be deducted from the $8
congestion charge, to leave a total charge of $0!).
(Traffic entering/leaving via the High Bridge (which I believe costs $2
each way) will thus pay a $4 charge if they travel below 86th St.)
And I am not sure if the plan calls for this or not, but cars leaving via
the Verrazano Bridge to Staten Island and Beyond (the toll for which is
at least $8 now) will also pay nothing.
Finally, people using the free bridges, namely, the Brooklyn, Manhattan,
Williamsburg, Qeensboro, Third Ave/Willis Ave, and upper Bronx-Manhattan
bridges will be forced, for the first time, to pay EFFECTIVELY what
people who pay for the tolled bridges will pay, e.g., $8.
Although not -directly- a toll on the the free facilities, the net effect
is to "even out" the disparity between the TBTA facilities (which if used
both ways, (with the exception of the High Bridge) amazingly cost the
same $8 as the congestion pricing fee...) and the free facilities.
Perhaps this was done to nullify TBTA/MTA opposition to the plan, but in
effect this plan will require ALL ACCESS to/from Kings, Queens, Nassau
and Suffolk Counties to be tolled during the plan's hours.
Thus, it seems likely, that as all this does is effectively toll
commuters who use the free bridges, and as it costs commuters who use
Queens/Brooklyn TBTA facilities NOTHING extra, that it will modify
existing driving patterns somewhat so that some motorists will take a
more direct TBTA Bridge or Tunnel to work (most of which are already well
above design capacity) rather than the free bridges.
Other than make it more expensive for people who use the free bridges out
of economic necessity to enter and leave the city (as those who can
afford the TBTA facilities do so at a cost of $8 per day mitigating any
extra cost of congestion pricing), the plan seems that it will have
little effect other than to finally obtain tolling facilities on
structures which have been free for over 100 years in some cases as yet
another tax on those who can least afford it.
If the Mayor and the City were truly in favor of mitigating congestion
through the central business district, here are some ideas which are so
obvious one wonders why they have not been tried IF this were truly an
effort to reduce congestion:
1. Remove tolls from TBTA and facilities which do not lead into and out
of Manhattan: The Whitestone, Throgs Neck, Verrazano, and Broad Channel
Bridges should be made toll-free. This is one city -- why charge people
who want to go from Brooklyn to Staten Island, or segregate those who
want to travel from Queens to the Bronx and beyond. I for one regularly
go through Manhattan to avoid the tolls and the delays on TBTA facilities
as it is often cheaper(gas vs. tolls) and faster (due to delays on major
Holidays when many non-EZ pass users jam up the limited cash lanes
backing up bridges for miles. If there were no tolls on these facilities,
many of my and I suspect other trips through Manhattan would be avoided.
2. Make the current (tolled) Manhattan and PA/NY&NJ facilities free at
night or during off-peak periods, giving drivers and incentive to come in
later or at staggered hours and encouraging time-shifted work patterns
rather than penalizing those who can not change their schedules.
This may also be an economic boon to the City as, similar to the
Unlimited Ride MetroCard, it will promote more inter-boro traveling,
shopping, and commerce during off-peak hours.
(This of course will never be done since it means the PA and the TBTA will
lose revenue, which goes to show that this is really all about money and
has very little relevance to actual congestion relief.)
3. Improve bus service: Currently, if I take the subway into Manhattan,
the last bus from the subway station to my house leaves at 11PM. If I
wanted to stay later in Manhattan, I'd have no way home other than a long
30-minute walk, which is no pleasant in inclement weather. There should
be 24 hour, regular bus service on all routes which service subway
stations and service as a distributor to surrounding neighborhoods.
4. Improve subway express service: There are MANY facilities currently in
place on the subway system for at the very least peak direction express
service, namely: The "F"/Culver line (2-way express service until Church,
then peak direction service southwards), "N"/Sea Beach Express Service
(2-way service), "D"/West End service (peak direction), "J" peak
direction express tracks east of Myrtle Ave., "1" service north of 96th
St. (peak direction), "2" Service north of 180th St. (peak direction),
"W" and "N" Astoria line (peak direction), "F" service east of Van Wyck
(2-way express). These are in place and would require little or no work
to restore or provide express service, yet the Mayor, the City, and the
TA are silent on the issue. Indeed, recent community-based petitions
signed by 3000 residents in Brooklyn to restore "F" express service are
being ignored by TA officials as not currently practicable even though
the tracks exist and express service was run as recently as the
5. Improve subway nighttime service: It is ridiculous to have to wait 20
to 30 minutes for some trains at night; it is much faster in many cases
to just drive home, especially on Friday and Saturday nights when so many
people are waiting for a late night train that they are often too crowded
to and require a wait for the next train.
6. Add more subway routes on existing track: There are a number of
connections not currently in use which will facilitate improved service
to areas where commuters currently save time by driving, including J/M
service to midtown and uptown locations, G service at all times on the
Queens Blvd. segment (with somewhat more limited service during rush
hours to accommodate "V" service), and "V" service extended during rush
hours to Brooklyn (in conjunction with "F" express service.
Do not dispose of refurbished, older subway rolling stock (R-32, R-38,
R-40, and R-42) when newer cars arrive but use these cars for added
service and new routes.
7. Build new connections between existing routes: Instead of using $500
Million in Federal Funds and spending money on pandering ads featuring
asthmatics, spend some money to build a connection between the "G" and
"L" lines in Brooklyn, and between the "L" and Broadway and/or 6th Ave
and/or 8TH Ave lines in Manhattan, providing additional Queens Blvd.
service to downtown Manhattan (and possibly "loop service" if uptown
connections are made) as well as direct service to Williamsburg and
Canarsie residents downtown and to areas in northern/western Brooklyn.
8. Utilize little used/disused facilities: Build high level, handicapped
access platforms along the LIRR LIC/Montauk Branch (which had limited
service up until the late 1990s), re-construct the LIRR
Rockaway/Woodhaven Branch with stations service central-eastern Queens
and a direct, one-seat ride to JFK, utilize the LIRR "Garden City" branch
for a large Park and Ride facility along the Meadowbrook Parkway and
concomitant one-seat ride into New York, and re-build the Putnam Division
in Westchester and Putnam Counties to provide additional service into
either Grand Central or Penn.
9. Fix the current roads so that they are passable: New York City has
some of the worst roads in the developed world, and does little to fix
potholes, degraded road surfaces, and road hazards, causing drivers to
slow down, wear and breakdowns on City buses and other vehicles, and
generally adds to the overall level of congestion.
10. Build Safe and Patrolled Park and Rides at outer subway line stations
and LIRR stations in NYC: If the Washington Metro can do it, and Boston's
"T" can do it, and BART can do it, why can't New York build a series of
safe, secure, well-lit, patrolled, modestly priced commuter garages at
the periphery of the current subway system and along LIRR stations were
feasible to allow people who would otherwise drive a means whereby they
can drive to a parking lot where they can be assured of a safe spot, and
take the train or express bus into the Manhattan.
11. And yes -- build some new roads to keep up the the growth of the City
and surrounding areas.
Most of the ideas are not expensive or grandiose projects, but graduated,
easily accomplished means to mitigate the current state of congestion.
The City of New York should not -- nor should any municipality -- be in
the business of "punishing" commuters who opt for a given modality of
transportation by driving when they City, the TA, and the MTA fail them
so miserably. If the Mayor were truly interested in reducing congestion
and making mass transit more attractive for those who choose to drive, he
would use his political prowess and expend his energies to break down the
barriers imposed by the long-standing satrapies of various agencies and
interests involved in New York City's and the region's transit and
traffic planning and management, and implement these and other less
onerous proposals which have been suggested over the years.
Instead, the Mayor coyly and cynically calls for "cleaner, better air"
and "less congestion" when in fact he really just wants to toll the free
bridges in a manner that is least offensive to the TBTA and those who can
afford to/wish to pay their tolls, and burdensome and unfair to the many
under-represented commuters who have for years been ignored by the TA and
the MTA and who will have no other choice but to pay for the Mayor's
Fax to Elected Officials
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