Closed Proposal

NYC Congestion


From October 21, 2015 to January 8, 2016, people affected by congestion in the NYC area could use this site to learn about and discuss the causes and possible solutions. The public discussion is being compiled and will be submitted to local and state officials and transportation advisory groups.

Congestion is hardly a new problem, but there’s been some new activity around finding answers. The Mayor and Uber reached a temporary truce that involves a study of the impact of Uber and other for-hire vehicles and advice from a new Technology Advisory Group of transportation policy, economics and other experts. Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer held a large public hearing, where transit officials, commercial transportation providers, mass transit advocates, traffic engineers, and economists offered data and debated what the City and State should do. Council Member and City Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez, speaking at NYU's Rudin Center for Transportation Policy, released a set of proposals for making transportation safer and more efficient.

With all this attention on what the experts think, it's time to bring the people into the discussion. Share your experiences and on-the-ground knowledge. Help evaluate the various proposed solutions and add your own ideas--so that policymakers are also hearing the voice of the people who know first-hand about NYC congestion.

Discussion 4. The Move NY Fair Plan - 37

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1|The heart of the Plan: The "toll swap" - 35

Among all the ideas for reducing NYC congestion, the Move NY Fair Plan is very unusual--it would reduce traffic volume in especially congested areas plus generate a lot of money to improve public transit options throughout the metropolitan area.

The heart of the plan is the "toll swap." Tolls on the 7 MTA bridges would be reduced, while new tolls would be charged on routes into the CBA that are now free. The toll swap is supposed to do 3 things:

Fairer cost-sharing. Plan supporters say that tolls should be a fair balance that reflects the relative level of congestion and the availability of public transit alternatives to driving. Now, more that a million trips in and out of the heavily congested CBD are made every day, for free. At the same time, drivers using the 7 MTA bridges and two tunnels pay high tolls that keep going up. (PDF, p.10, fig.2) Under the new system, drivers using the 4 East River bridges or any avenue crossing Manhattan at 60th St. would pay the same toll as drivers using the Queens Midtown and Brooklyn Battery tunnels (now, $5.45 EZ-Pass). Tolls on the 7 MTA bridges would drop by $1-$2.50. (PDF, p.18, fig.10). Time-of-day pricing would adjust tolls to reflect congestion levels: lower fees for evenings and weekends; higher fees during rush hours. Tolls in all locations would be collected using gate-less electronic tolling technology to avoid bottlenecks.

There wouldn't be double-tolling: the Harlem River bridges would still be free, and a driver coming from the Triborough/RFK bridge would pay $5.45 total as long as he entered the CBD within an hour. (PDF, p.17). There are special rules for commercial vehicles, taxis, and FHVs, discussed in the next subtopic - 4.2 - Special rules for commercial vehicles, taxis and FHVs.

Ending harmful traffic patterns. A separate problem with the current toll system is that it encourages drivers to make bad route choices to save money. This "bridge shopping" sends heavy traffic (including large trucks) over roads and through neighborhoods not designed to handle it. For example, trucks headed to Jersey from Long Island use the free Manhattan bridge and Canal Street, rather than pay up to $80 on the most direct route over the Verrazano Bridge. In Queens, thousands of drivers exist highways and jam city streets to use the free Queensboro bridge rather than pay tolls for the tunnel or Triborough Bridge. (PDF, p.11, fig.3).

The result is major congestion, air quality problems, and increased accidents in areas leading to and from the free bridges. Balancing tolls across the area removes the financial encouragement to make these bad routing choices, and will improve traffic-related problems in Williamsburg, Chinatown, the Upper and Lower East Sides, Downtown Brooklyn, Hunters Point, Long Island City, Astoria, and Flatbush Avenue. See Plan's Borough Fact Sheets (PDF).

New funding for transportation needs. As Topic 5 - Money problem-solutions? discusses, NYC congestion can't really be solved without some serious new money to invest in better transit options. The toll swap is estimated to bring in $1.5 billion each year--even after reducing tolls on the 7 MTA bridges and investing in electronic collection technology for all new and existing toll points. (PDF, p.20-23; see also Audit of Revenue Projections PDF). The Plan has a strategy, described in the subtopic below (4.3 - Making sure new revenue gets spent on transportation), for making sure this money actually goes to transportation.

See Topic 6 - Improving transportation infrastructure and the Borough Fact Sheets (PDF) for specific ways the Plan wants to spend this money to give underserved areas new transit options, and improve existing subways, roads, and bridges.

The end result is estimated to be 100,000 fewer auto trips daily into the CBD; travel speed should increase 15%-20% in the CBD, and 6% on surrounding roads and bridges. (PDF, pp.20-21) At the same time, the combination of improved transit service and less congestion is predicted to mean 115,000 net additional trips daily to the CBD.

Support and Opposition. The Plan has gotten broad support: unions and business groups; community organizations and churches; environmental groups; trucking and FHV groups (including Uber); and groups representing cyclists, pedestrians, and straphangers. The NY Times, the Daily News, the NY Post, Newsday, Crain's, Fox 5 and other media have endorsed it. So have a lot of local officials. Even AAA is positive about the Plan. (See this magazine, p.24). The main local opposition is a group of Queens officials, who say new tolls are unfair to Queens residents with few public transit options. Plan supporters' respond that the Plan is the best hope for getting the money to bring more public transit to Queens; also, some proposed improvements that directly affect Queens (e.g., more SBS routes, restored service cuts, reduced bus and commuter rail fares) could be done before new tolls are implemented.

Some (including Governor Cuomo) have dismissed the Plan as just rehashing the 2008 congestion charge proposed by Mayor Bloomberg. There are actually a lot of differences (see this list (PDF) by Plan supporters), but probably most important are the strategies for guaranteeing that the new toll money creates more, cheaper transit options throughout the area. Surveys in Washington DC (PDF) and the NYC area (PDF) found that people who generally oppose congestion charges are much more positive about a plan they believe will reduce congestion and reliably fund better public transit.

Would the toll swap be fairer than the existing system, so long as current bridge tolls really are reduced and the money is spent on improving transportation options for the outer boroughs and suburbs?

Do you see other positive, or negative, consequences from the toll swap strategy?


Commenting is now closed.

I want to see Move NY adopted sooner, not later. I am disheartened how Governor Cuomo has dismissed it as a non-starter when in truth this is the most realistic way to both tackle congestion and raise badly-needed revenue for the MTA. Every day we hear more and more complaints about subway overcrowding, bus delays, etc. - those will not improve without more funding, but we all saw just how difficult it was to plug the gap in the latest MTA Capital Plan. And the worse public transportation services get, the more likely people are to abandon them and turn to cars, whether their own or for-hire vehicles. That only makes congestion worse. If we want to reduce the number of cars in the CBD, then we need to make the alternatives more appealing. Move NY will provide the money needed to do that.

Thank you, JuliaKite-TransAlt, for your comment on the Move NY Plan. Some Plan opponents say that Queens residents, at least in the beginning, will be without both a toll-free bridge and adequate transit alternatives. Supporters respond that residents can have some transit improvements before new tolls take effect. Do you think those transit improvements can fairly replace toll-free car commuting, considering cost, time, and effort?

As primarily a bicyclist, I support the Move New York plan to reduce the number of cars in crowded areas of Manhattan - blocking the boxes at intersections causes gridlock, unsafe driving & vehicle intrusions into bike lanes. I could research the New York legislative status a bit more, but is the Move NY plan officially introduced as a bill in either chamber of the legislature this session, in part or in whole? I didn't see a bill number in the MoveNY .pdf overview yet, maybe it needs to be written and introduced still with support behind it. This could also be a question for the Move NY Fair Plan coalition.

Thank you, davidrusselmoore. With enough support, the MoveNY Fair Plan will be authorized by enabling legislation enacted by the NYS Legislature as part of the 2015 State budget (See here, p. 4). If it should be enacted, it would be in MoveNY Fair's advantage for the comprehensive plan to be enacted in whole because of the intricate financing and lockboxing schemes the plan proposes. Please feel free to read through the details of that mechanism in this subtopic and comment.

I definitely support the toll swap plan however I think subway and bus fares should be reduced first. Reducing bridge fares will only encourage car transit where as mass transit should be the primary method of travel. But the reality is there are just too many people living in a concentrated area!

Welcome to the discussion, Lauren. The toll swap plan will both reduce bridge fares where there is currently less traffic and increase bridge fares where there is currently more traffic (See Plan, p. 17). It will reduce traffic volume in especially congested areas and also generate a significant amount of revenue. This money could be used to mend the recent budgeting shortfalls of the MTA. You raise an interesting point about how people should drop automobile travel entirely and switch to mass transit as their primary method of travel. Should this be a long term goal? Do you think that the City should invest some of this money to provide better mass transit options?

Hi Lauren. You're right! And that's why the Move NY plan actually does just that: It extends City Ticket on the LIRR and Metro-North to seven days per week and reduces fares to $6 peak/$4 off-peak and Express busses to $5. These reductions would be put into place before the bridge tolls are lowered and before the tolls entering into Manhattan's Central Business District would be introduced.

Excellent idea. To the extent that this reduces bridge shopping it will help reduce traffic congection in Queens.

Thank you for your comment, Michael Orr. Do you think there are any negative consequences to Move NY Fair Plan’s toll swap strategy?

Given that parts of Queens have often been considered ‘transit deserts’, how would you respond to people’s concerns that introducing a system of toll swap in Queens will cause the toll prices to go up but without adequate extension of public transit services?

I am a huge, huge supporter of the toll swap plan. While I ride my bike to work almost every day, when I do have to take public transit, the conditions are extremely frustrating. More money needs to be injected into improving the public transit system and this is the best plan I've seen that will help accomplish this. My only concern is how fast changes can be made to the transit systems. With demand increasing and increasing, I'm just hoping the MTA can keep up...

Reduce Congestion in CBD

1) Implement MoveNY. 30% of motor vehicles in CBD have no destination in CBD they are driving in CBD toll shopping to get to LI or NJ.

2) Implement NYCDOT SMARTmeter plan citywide: Street Parking is too valuable to give away from little or no cost. Street Parking should cost equal to off street parking

3) Expand Loading Zones on every avenuein CBD: Delivery trucks and For hires vehicles should have the curb space to do their vital work without blocking lanes.

5) Complete Streets: Amsterdam, 2nd ave, 5th ave., 6th ave in 2016. Dedicated bus lanes, pedestrian islands, protected bike lanes, and 25MPH signal timing.

6) have the courage to expand pedestrian plazas everywhere in CBD. Proptery Values increase with pedestrian plazas. Have the courage to eventually link all the pedestrian plazas along Broadway from Union Square to Central Park in a linear chain of great spaces.

7) have the courage to expand sidewalks when building complete streets

Thanks for your comment, Alexander Vucelic. Some opponents of the Move NY plan have expressed concern that the plan could hurt Queens residents, who lack public transit options and who would face higher commuting costs. (You can also find more info here under Subtopic 6.) How would you respond to these concerns?

I think the intent of this set-up is to get the FAIR PLAN or TOLL THE LAST FREE EAST RIVER BRIDGES or END BRIDGE SHOPPING or RE-GIGGER CONGESTION PRICING or whatever it will be called before going for a vote in Albany. That proposal in itself will be difficult enough without these onerous add-on's, all of which are opposed by motorists. Do you have any clearly motorist-friendly ideas to offer up?

Overall, I support the idea of making tolls higher near the center of the City to urge people to take other routes when they are available. As a resident of Gramercy/Kips Bay, which lies within what is defined as the Central Business District (CBD) even though the area consists of mostly residences, schools and medical facilities, I feel that I will be unfairly taxed and think this plan should not include the residential areas. Unlike those that could choose to take alternate routes, residents of this area have no alternatives. When I use a car to leave the City it is because I have no choice. Mass transit does not serve the suburbs or areas further away very well.

Welcome to the discussion, dissisme. You're right that the Plan may impose a particular financial disadvantage to residents of the CBD. Do you think the benefit derived from improved travel speeds within the CBD, and in the long term, improved transit options, made possible by the Plan's revenues (Please see Executive Summary, p. 3), can offset this financial disadvantage?

I think there will be many travel benefits from Move but few of those would benefit me since I bike to work along the waterfront Greenway on most days, walk to do most of my shopping and only occasionally use mass transit or a car for other purposes. On top of paying a higher toll everytime I leave the city, taxes for parking my car in my co-op would be increased as part of Move. Unfortunately, I think the reason my neighborhood, unlike the Upper East Side or Upper West Side, would have to pay higher tolls is that it is not as easy to define the boundary and collect fares over a larger border. What could be done is to maintain the borders as is but to refund CBD residents.

Off peak on peak pricing alternatives

The toll swap would be a huge win for the city.

All tolls must be ezpass paid.

Funds generated from the increase tolls should go to making mass transit free.

It's important to implement congestion pricing 24/7. If not, traffic will revert to old patterns off hours. The East River Bridges are a mess off peak as well. A variable tolling structure should maximize prices during peak congestion hours, lowering tolls at other times. They should never be free however.

Few NYC residents drive into the CBD for work, the vast majority of which being more affluent than most. Most New Yorkers are stuck in traffic on buses or crowded subway trains so that a privledged few can drive.

Residental parking permits should also be required citywide so that suburbanites do not use inner city stations in neighborhoods like Flushing and Jamaica as parking lots. Remove parking minimums to reduce the incentive of automobile owneship and varable market rate parking metering.

Finally, dedicate eventual increased road space to other purposes. I would like the city to study the feasibility of adding bus only lanes to the East River bridges and reconfigure roads to maximize pedestrian and bicyclist safety. And more pedestrianization of roads and extended sidewalks.

The MoveNY plan is necessary to address several transportation and public health issues in the metropolitan area.

The early iteration of the FAIR PLAN pointed to a funding of an upgrade to the Belt Pkwy from the VNB to JFK to allow for trucks. This would aleviate congestion on the Gowanus(I-278).

Now it is missing. Instead, the new inclusion of repair funding from the PLAN revenues of I-278 below Brooklyn Heights (which had been funded by NYS as a NYS function but last year defunded by Gov Cuomo) has been substituted. The original NYS funding went to the new Tappan Zee Bridge. This is a clear attempt by Mr. Schwartz to enlist Gov. Cuomo as a PLAN supporter at NYC motorists' expense without the benefit of any upgrade to our local roads.

Hello TOM MURPHY, welcome to the discussion! As far as the current iteration of MoveNY is concerned, is it preferential to the current situation in NYC?

The current 'iteration' releaves the State from paying what was and still is a State responsibility. The City users will now pay and the original State money is diverted to the Tappen Zee. Kind of like the NYPANY&NJ paying for the re-build of the Palaski Skyway which has attracted the attention of the US Security & Exchange Commission.

I noticed on Thankgiving Gov. Cuomo got the honor to announce the opening of the new HOV lanes on I-278 in SI & Brooklyn on Black Friday. The Gowanus has gone from six to seven travel lanes.

Of course no thank extended to the motorists and residents who continue be abused by the ongoing construction.

I support everything about the Move NY plan and its many logical ideas proposed. I am also very concerned about noise. I live on Broome St - which is a direct route from the Williamsburg Bridge to the Holland Tunnel. Frequently this street is over capacity and gridlock occurs. Nearly every driver will honk their horn to no avail. The only current solution is the presence of a traffic cop at my intersection (Broadway). It can be unbelievably loud - it's really quite terrible. I hope and pray the Move NY plan brings congestion relief so traffic can start moving and drivers stop causing gridlock - and honking.

PaulMiller, thanks for your comment. It ​seems you live in an area particularly affected by these issues, and we welcome personal testimony. What do you make of the Plan​'s chances in places like Queens?

Hi Paul! We neighbors and I agree with you! It's getting hard to live here! The honking is extreme and too many cars around!

Hi everyone! I live on kenmare st! The honking and traffic are unbearable! Is it possible that we pay so much rent and can't sleep properly? How long will it take to change this? Can I help? I know people in the community board for 10012

Thank you for your comment, Agoodlook. The Move NY Fair Plan proposes (p. 17) to set higher tolls where transit options are most available and lower tolls where transit is not available or less viable. Do you think this toll swap proposal will help in reducing the number of vehicles around Kenmare Street?

Hi Moderator...i hope so! I see big trucks and vans on kenmare coming from the williamsburg bridge going to the holland tunnel...kenmare st is a 2 way street with one lane each...its always busy in the AM on the way to the holland tunnel and no one on the way to williamsburg night time it gets busy both ways...would anyone know a timeline in order to fix this problems? Will it takes years? Is anyone i can speak on the phone? Thanks

Dear Agoodlook, the proposed toll swap will toll drivers that cross the 4 East River bridges, including the Williamsburg bridge, and this might reduce the traffic going to and from such bridges. The Move NY Fair Plan, if authorized, will be enacted by the NYS Legislature as part of the 2015-2016 State budget (see Executive Summary, p. 4). Also, every comment in this discussion will be compiled in a report and sent to every lawmaker in NY before they make their final decisions. So please feel free to explore the other topics in this forum to voice your opinion.

This is not a good plan at all. I live in NW Queens and find this plan to be an insult, especially as it has the word "fair" in it. I would like to know how making my toll on the Queensboro Bridge $8 is fair to me when commuters who do not live in the city then pay only $3 on the numerous other bridges? I LIVE AND WORK IN THIS CITY! Your initial propoganda mentions how the public is already paying so much in tolls and fares for roads and transit, yet somehow, this is not considered a toll? What about the burden of rising prices on goods and services across the city when the congestion plan is implemented? Nowhere is that mentioned in your literature. I don't think less gridlock for bicyclists will really offset the costs of living anywhere in the city at that point. As for the money being raised to help the MTA with the costs of roads, bridges and public transit, I think Move NY would do better to demystify the MTA's inner workings and budgets. I live on the 7 line, which has been undergoing CBTC modernization for years and it's not even close to being done. The irony is that the MTA is not even sure if this system is good for the other lines! They can't even install countdown timers properly because they are trying to rely on ANOTHER system which doesn't even work with the CBTC! Plus, don't even think that a measly $1.5B is enough to stop the MTA from raising transit fares on a regular basis.

I don't believe many of you at Move NY have been living in the City for very long, so your concerns are literally pedestrian. There's no consideration for people who must live and work around here who will be severly affected. It's nice that you want less traffic below 60 Street. I say raise the tolls higher on everything outside the City till it really hurts people driving in! Raise their fares from $8 to $15 each way and see how it slows it down. Sure, I'll still have to pay increases on goods and services, but the congestion really comes from too many cars on the road. Let persons commuting from LI, Westchester, Connecticut and NJ pay for the privilege of driving into the city, especially since they have plenty of transit options.

I also believe Move NY is an Albany plan made to burden those who live, work and commute to the City with the increased costs, rather than find a way to reinvest the tax dollars they already make from the City. Nobody in NYC calls the area south of 60 Street the "CBD." That smacks of elitist idealogues who have no idea how the city runs, but have spent time looking at charts and figures to determine the best way to make things "move" at the expense of those who have to live and work here.

Thanks for your comment, georgeberberian. You raise a valid point--the proposed toll swap would impose an additional cost on drivers who use the East River bridges. Plan supporters, though, argue that the current toll system encourages "bridge shopping," which sends heavy traffic into residential areas not designed for the traffic.

If you're interested in revenue issues, you may also want to check out sub-topic 3, the section directly below.

While the idea of lowering the cost of LIRR tickets inside the city is appealing, has anyone considered the impact on the few neighborhoods within NYC that have LIRR stations? The few LIRR trains that currently service these stations are already crowded and lowering the fare would most likely bring numerous new customers in places like Jamaica, Kew Gardens and Forest Hills seeking to avoid the over-crowded and delay plagued Queens IND Lines (E,F,M,R). Many bus riders heading for the subways in these neighborhoods would also instead head for the LIRR in those neighborhoods to avoid the IND adding to what would be a crush of new customers on the LIRR.

The IND service is a disaster too because of all the switching that goes on with the F and M trains where trains are having to switch tracks multiple times causing frequent delays. The F trains needs to be switched back to the 53rd Street tunnel and the M needs to be sent through the 63rd street tunnel thus eliminating multiple delay causing track switches on the line. Perhaps if the MTA could actually make the IND line function properly people would not feel the need to use the LIRR in these neighborhoods.

Also, how about a one price ride for city residents who need to use the LIRR or Metro North and the Subway? The devil is of course in the details but I have found myself having to pay three fares at times when I take public transportation from my neighborhood in Queens to Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn - subway to LIRR to subway again. Cost - $16.50 each way. Absurd.

Welcome to the discussion, Peter, and thanks for your comment. If you're interested in transit issues, you may want to take a look at Topic 6 (How to Improve Area Transportation), which discusses ways to lower public transit fares.

As for tolls, how about eliminating them altogether except for rush hour Manhattan traffic? I drive most days from Queens to Brooklyn and don't pay a penny in tolls while co-workers of mine with shorter mileage commutes must pay daily tolls. How is it fair that we both use roads daily but since my co-worker lives in the Bronx she must pay tolls while I drive free? It's time to end the artificial barriers between boroughs by elimintaing or vastly reducing tolls and replacing the revenue with higher resgistraion and other fees on all vehicles so the cost of our infrastructure is not laid so heavily on those unfortunate enough to have to cross an MTA bridge just to get to their jobs and is instead spread more evenly across all drivers and even perhaps revenue from all New Yorkers who benefit from our road infrastructure even if they don't own a vehicle.

Motorists already pay more than their fair share. Move NY will just exacerbate this inequity. Besides, many drivers need to put up with the congestion to earn a living and simply cannot afford East River tolls. This is a regressive tax that hits the poorest part of our society the hardest. It's a bad idea and should be scrapped.

2|Special rules for commercial vehicls, taxis and FHVs - 2

Trucks and other commercial vehicles would pay only one round-trip toll per day, even if they make multiple runs into and out of the CBA. With the end of "bridge shopping" incentives, through-truck traffic will decline and businesses will benefit from increased traffic speeds for pick-ups, deliveries, and service calls. (PDF, p.19). Trucking organizations have endorsed the Plan.

Yellow cabs would be exempt from the $5.45 toll and instead pay a surcharge: 15% on miles traveled south of 96th st., plus 20% on the wait-time part of the fare, plus 50 cents on the drop. (Average surcharge is estimated to be $1.35.) Surcharges would be halved on weekend and holidays when congestion is less and mass transit is not at full service. Taxis are a middle ground between private autos and mass transit. Plan supporters say that a surcharge approach charges taxi riders their fair share of costs for congestion improvements that will increase trip speeds 15%-18%. Trip speed increases also give taxi drivers faster fare turnover--estimated to be 15%, or 4-5 more fares per shift. More trips with fewer vehicles is one of the main plan goals. (PDF, pp.19,21). The Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade supports the Plan.

Boro taxis (green cabs) would get the same treatment as yellow cabs, except that the toll exemption would expire within a set time (maybe an hour) so that the greens don't stick around in the zone and pick up illegal hails. Green cab fares that don't go south of 96th will not be affected by the tolls or surcharges. (PDF, p.19).

Under the current version of the Plan, traditional black car and livery services would pay the same tolls as private vehicles. (PDF, p.20). However, Plan drafters report that the increasing use of GPS technology in these vehicles may make it possible to use the same location-based surcharge proposed for taxis. The Black Car Fund supports the Plan.

Uber and other e-hail services have a satellite data network that allow surcharging based on mileage or minutes within the taxi charging zone. This approach would prevent the services from avoiding their fair share of charges by dividing their vehicles into two groups, one on either side of the charging boundary. (PDF, p.20). Uber has endorsed the Plan.

If the Plan's goals are (1) moving more people into and out of the CBA with fewer vehicles, and (2) fairly sharing costs of congestion and funding transit alternatives, does the Plan get it right for each of these vehicle categories? If not, what strategies would be better?

Do you see any other positive or negative consequences of the Plan's approach to commercial vehicles, taxis and FHVs?


Commenting is now closed.

Funds generated should go to making transit free.

Thank you for your comment, jamesarrufat. If you're interested in revenue issues, you may want to take a look at sub-topic 3 (the section immediately below), which describes Move NY's proposal for how new revenue should be spent.

3|Making sure new revenue gets spent on transportation - 0

The Plan is estimated to generate $1.5 billion in new revenue annually. (PDF, pp. 211-22 & fig.13 for revenue breakdown). This is after deducting the costs of new electronic collection equipment, administration, and "lost" revenue from lowering the 7 MTA bridge tolls.

The Plan's success in reducing congestion depends, in part, on investing in better public transit and in road/bridge repair and upgrades. This gives commuters good alternatives to driving private vehicles into the CBA and helps vehicles on the streets move more efficiently. You can read about specific proposed transportation investments in Topic 6 - How to improve area transportation. These improvements are estimated to produce 115,000 net additional trips to the CBA daily (even thought there would be 100,000 fewer private auto trips). (PDF, p.21).

Of course, this can work only if the new money is actually invested in the area's transportation infrastructure. There have been problems in the past with the State diverting money that's supposed to be used for metropolitan area transportation. The Plan includes several ways to "lockbox" the new toll and surcharge revenue:

  • New state legislation would authorize the MTA-B&T and NYC-DOT to impose tolls on the 4 East River Bridges and across 60th St., and direct that these tolls match the tunnel tolls. The legislation would also
    • link starting the new tolls with lowering the outer bridge tolls, so that neither one could happen without the other; and
    • set a fixed ratio by which the outer bridge tolls would permanently be lower than the CBD-bound tolls.
  • A new agency, the Move NY Highway and Transit Authority (MNY, would be created as part of the MTA-B&T. It's only job would be to collect the new funds and divide them among the MTA for transit improvements and fare subsidies, and the City and State DOTs for road and bridge maintenance. (PDF, p.22, Fig.13) for proposed spending breakdown). The statute would require the new agency to follow the transportation spending priorities outlined in the Plan. (See Topic 6 - How to improve area transportation). Plan supporters think a new agency like this is the best protection against political pressure to divert money, because the funds would never go through Albany at all. The MTA would get the money without needing an annual appropriation from the State legislature.
  • The legislation would also give the MTA authority to bond as much of the new revenue as necessary to make up for the revenue "lost" to lower tolls. This would protect the MTA's current bondholders. It would also contain an "agreement of state" that New York State pledges not to take away the powers or funding stream of an entity that has issued bonds.
  • A "maintenance of effort" provision in both the legislation and new bonds would commit the State not to reduce existing MTA-dedicated funding (basically, fares and tolls, plus a varied list of special taxes that you can see here (PDF, p.3, Table 1). This would make it harder for Albany to rob Peter to pay Paul.
You can read the details at PDF, pp.25-28 PDF.

No lockbox strategy is foolproof, because a future governor and legislature can always repeal or amend state statutes. But Plan supporters think this strategy minimizes the risks. It creates a path for new revenue that allows the MTA and NYC-DOT to get the money without going through the legislative appropriations process. Also, the State knows that if it renegs on its commitments to protect bondholders, it will have a lot of problems financing any of its big public projects.

Some plan critics don't trust that money from new East River bridge tolls would be used to create better public transit for affected commuters. How good a job do you think the plan does at making sure this happens? Are there other strategies that should be used to lockbox the toll swap money?


Commenting is now closed.

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