Bridge Tolls or Fare Hikes? The Voice of the People Says…

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Last month the Brooklyn Paper asked around for some person-on-the-street perspectives about how to fund our transit system, and look what they found. Talk to Brooklynites who aren’t ensconced in their cars, and you get some pretty consistent answers: No one thought drivers should get a free pass.

So when state reps dismiss bridge tolls out of hand, do you think they pause at all to consider who they’re speaking for?

  • oscar

    they’re speaking for themselves

  • Damn, oscar beat me to it.

  • Nicholas

    East River bridge tolls are dead politically. Our elected officials know that to vote for it risks their re-election.

    If New Yorkers are supposed to hate cars so much then why is every street in the city packed with cars, even in “greenie” neighborhoods like Park Slope?

  • Because they TAKE UP SO MUCH DAMN SPACE!

  • “do you think they pause at all to consider who they’re speaking for?”

    NO.

  • Rhywun

    > Our elected officials know that to vote for it risks their re-election.

    Not if New Yorkers decided to vote in their own self-interest for a change.

    > why is every street in the city packed with cars

    Because cars tend to fill up whatever space you make available to them. New Yorkers “love” cars as much as other Americans, but obviously there isn’t enough space for everyone to have one, nor is there the need.

  • It’s not like we are asking politicians to have the political courage to take an unpopular stand. Tolling the bridges – if it meant a lower fare increase – would be tremendously popular among voters, at least in the portions of the outer boroughs closest to those bridges.

    The crazy thing is, the representatives (city, state, and local) don’t realize this, that supporting tolls would be a popular stand – they equate any toll or tax that they authorize with unpopularity (that’s why they prefer MTA fare increases: they don’t have to vote for them!) and refuse to get acquainted with the particulars of the issue.

    Just the other night, a councilwoman from eastern Crown Heights and Brownsville (most recently in the news for her vote switch on term limits) stood up at a community board meeting and decried Bus Rapid Transit on Nostrand Avenue as harmful to local business. It was obvious that she did not have the first clue about the particulars of the issue, and was taking a purely demagoguic political stand based on what she perceives her narrow swath of voters would think about this. Crazy.

  • fdr

    “was taking a purely demagoguic political stand based on what she perceives her narrow swath of voters would think about this. Crazy.”
    Why is that crazy? If she’s right about what she perceives “her narrow swath of voters would think about this” then it’s going to help her get re-elected. That’s all that matters to her.

  • Rhywun

    Plus, politicians only listen to people in a position to “help” them the most, i.e. businesspeople and wealthier residents (potential donors), who naturally are a minority of their constituency. That is why their positions (like supporting the “carriage trade” on Nostrand Avenue over the vastly larger needs of pedestrians and bus riders) seem to make no sense to normal people.

  • Respect the Past

    Voters feel that their tax dollar are many times improperly spent. A lot of times this is rightfully so. I think that the most politically feasible solution would involve a revenue neutral car tolling – toll vehicles and use the proceeds to lower income taxes. Yes, this would exacerbate the problem of overcrowded subways (possible solution listed further below), but at the very least, it would start creating the right economic incentives to align with the negative externalities related to driving.

    Otherwise, I believe that for a short window, we might be able to pass this if it is clearly communicated to voters that service cuts will cease if these tolls are put into place. Combining this with a rush hour subway “congestion tax, as in the Kheel 2 plan, could lead to a much better system, which could be politically feasible.

    Yet, I worry that Bloomberg (despite my admiration for his public policy courage), due to his upcoming re-election is afraid of upsetting outer borough residents; therefore, I would be surprised if he would make a big, direct push from for bridge tolls.

  • “Since there’s less people on the road, they should pay” is not tremendously good logic, if you ask me.

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