Oct. 27, 2015 By Jackie Strawbridge
A controversial proposal to toll the free East River Bridges, including the Queensboro, has earned the support of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.
The proposal, put forward by the coalition Move NY in February, would introduce tolls on the Queensboro and other East River bridges of $5.54 each way with E-ZPass, or $8 without.
However the plan would also reduce 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 are supporting the free bridges despite having fewer public transportation alternatives. Meanwhile, it would deincentivize the Queensboro Bridge, therefore reducing congestion and pollution around Queens Plaza.
Move NY also says its plan would generate $1.35 billion annually, to create a consistent funding stream for the MTA’s capital plan as well as supporting public transportation expansions through, for example, select bus service or ferries.
“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.
Van Bramer joins several of his colleagues in the Council in supporting the Move NY plan; his endorsement is particularly significant due to his role as Majority Leader. Move NY Campaign Director Alex Matthiessen called his support “a nice shot in the arm.”
However, the plan has also earned a number of detractors, especially in areas of Queens where access to public transportation is scant.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz has called the plan “certainly unfair to the families who live in the transit desert of Queens as it would landlock our borough.”
Katz questioned whether the plan would generate any tangible transportation upgrades for Queens residents or amount to anything more than “an interesting idea,” in an April statement co-signed by 18 Queens city and state representatives.
Ultimately, the Move NY plan would be enacted on the state level. Move NY has put forth legislative parameters aimed at preventing new revenue from being used for purposes other than transportation.
The full plan is available online here.
Reach reporter Jackie Strawbridge at jackie[email protected]
Is Move NY’s plan worth paying a toll for?