June 2, 2016 By Michael Florio
Proponents of a controversial plan that would add a toll to the Queensboro Bridge will rally in Astoria this weekend.
The rally will take place on Saturday at 11 a.m., starting at the Astoria Blvd N/Q subway station, at 31st Street between Astoria Blvd and Hoyt Avenue South. The Riders Alliance and Transportation Alternatives organized the rally in hopes of garnering support for the “Move NY Fair Plan,” which would change how bridges and crossings in New York City are tolled.
The Move NY plan would introduce tolls on the Queensboro and other East River bridges of $5.54 each way with E-ZPass, or $8 without, while reducing fares on other major bridges, including the Triborough/RFK, by up to 48 percent.
Move NY believes that this “toll swap” would be more fair for drivers on the Triborough/RFK and other tolled bridges, who have fewer transportation alternatives. Meanwhile, the coalition charges that it would de-incentivize the Queensboro Bridge, therefore reducing congestion and pollution around Queens Plaza.
Move NY also says its plan would generate $1.35 billion annually. Per the Assembly bill text, the new revenue would go towards MTA expansion projects potentially including ferry service, subway and bus station improvements and road and bridge maintenance, among others.
Saturday’s rally participants will hand out $2.50 “dollar bills” to inform Queens drivers about the strategy for reduced tolls on the nearby Triborough/RFK Bridge.
A handful of local officials have already voiced their support for the plan.
“I said it many times in the past, but I will encourage New Yorkers to take a close look at the proposal and the benefits it would bring to our transportation system,” State Sen. Jose Peralta said. “I believe this plan will get traffic moving, will fix inequalities in how bridges are tolled and it will provide a sustainable source of much needed revenue for the MTA.”
Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer has also come out in favor of the plan.
“We’ve seen massive congestion problems both on the subway cars and platforms of the 7 train themselves, and then in addition to that, in the run up to the Queensboro Bridge,” Van Bramer said in a statement. “That’s why I am saying now we need to focus on this investment into our mass transit. The Move NY plan is the best and most responsible way to get us there.”
“This is a responsible way to ensure that the MTA’s needs are fully funded on an ongoing basis without putting a financial burden on the backs of riders,” he added.
However, not everyone is convinced.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris was one of several elected officials invited to Saturday’s rally, but he remains skeptical of the plan and will not attend the rally, according to his office.
Assembly Member Aravella Simotas is also wary.
“Traffic and transportation are complicated problems and I’m not sure that this proposal gets us where we want to go,” Simotas said in a statement.
She will be “unable to attend” the rally, according to her office.
Assembly Members Cathy Nolan and Margaret Markey have both been invited to Saturday’s rally. Neither responded to requests for comment on the Move NY plan.