Weiner Says New York Drivers Should Be Exempt From Tolls

Congressman Anthony Weiner released his own MTA rescue plan today. As if that in itself weren’t surprising enough, the outspoken toll opponent has modified his position, sort of. City Room reports:

[Weiner] said on Monday that making new tolls — which he would set at $4.15 — payable only by non-city residents would be a compromise that could gain traction in Albany and would be a bit like reviving the commuter tax, which was eliminated ten years ago.

He predicted the tolls would raise $391 million a year.

"This is my contribution to trying to solve this problem," Mr. Weiner said in a telephone interview.

Acknowledging that he has fought tolls in the past, he said, "We seem to be slipping from, should we have them, to, how should we have them. And I’m trying to engage that second discussion."

Weiner, who has not spoken with Sheldon Silver or Malcolm Smith about his proposal, is also calling for the MTA to cut administrative costs, post more of its financial data online, and for more power over the agency to be vested in the mayor, rather than the governor. 

It’s hard to know where to begin here. If you’re a transit rider, how much does it help to have another "plan" muddying the waters? On the other hand, if you’re Anthony Weiner, how great is it to jump in at the last second with a plan that carries no political risk whatsoever?

  • Mark

    NYC transit riders should also be exempt from tolls. I meant to say fares.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Looks like Weiner’s promise to have the rest of the country pay for our transit system in lieu of congestion pricing, so city residents could have something for nothing, was a false one. I guess he isn’t going to keep his promise about Washington.

    So now he promises that Albany will have the rest of Downstate New York pay for the transit system so NYC residents can have something for nothing. I wonder how that will work out?

    Weiner for Mayor: no taxes, no tolls, no fares, and lots of services and benefits for everyone! All we have to do is elect him and our most selfish and irresponsible impulses will be take care of! Promise!

    That plan worked for ambitious pols for 25 years, backed by debt. The result will be bankruptcy. Weiner is an amoral opportunist.

  • Veritas

    I do like one element of his plan – giving the mayor more control over the MTA. However, I doubt Albany would ever be willing to give up power.

  • King C.

    Weiner is a tool.

  • James

    Please… Brodsky will piss all over this plan. It’s dead on arrival. I also love it how politicians throw around toll amounts based on numbers pulled from you-know-where, with no analysis of how much toll revenue the MTA actually needs built into the toll numbers they offer up. First was Sheldon Silver with $2 tolls, now we have Weiner with $4.15. All over the freaking place. Where are the adults in this conversation?

  • Rhywun

    I doubt Albany would ever be willing to give up power.

    That is the understatement of the year.

  • t

    Weiner has it backwards. It’s precisely the people who live close by who should pay tolls because they generally have more options for getting in and out of the city. Impose a toll and perhaps they’ll start taking transit where possible.

    Those coming from father away have fewer options, generally, although I don’t think that should exempt them from paying tolls.

  • This is quite possibly the dumbest suggestion I’ve heard so far. Congrats, Mr. Weiner. You’ve outdone the geniuses in Albany.

    (I do like the idea of giving the mayor more control over the MTA though.)

  • Jesse

    Appears he hasn’t seen the news (http://www.nycfuture.org/images_pdfs/pdfs/TransitOverload.pdf) that the subway’s fastest growing ridership over the past decade is in the outer boroughs.

  • vnm

    James,

    Well, the numbers aren’t totally made up.

    The Ravitch Commission called for tolls equal to those on the already tolled East River crossings (Queens-Midtown Tunnel, Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, Triborough/RFK Bridge). At present, the toll on all of these (with an E-ZPass, is $4.15. Weiner’s plan to kowtow to the motorist minority was probably to go with that number but simply not charge the people he wants to vote him in as Mayor.

    Silver’s plan (also to kowtow, but a much more politically defensible way) was to charge everybody but to take a rate that is half of what the panel of experts said was needed $2.00 – the same as the base fare on the subway. Either way you cross the East River or Harlem River, you pay the same amount. It makes a lot more sense, even though it is not high enough of a toll.

    The part that is more conjecture is the part where these pols start estimating how much revenue such a charge would bring in. Weiner has to be the ultimate cynic to propose something like this. At some level, he has to know better.

  • James

    Ah, but VNM, the Ravitch tolls were designed with the additional payroll tax in mind as part of the overall package. Surely, if the payroll tax had not been part of the package, the proposed bridge tolls would have been higher to fill the portion of the MTA budget hole that the payroll tax would have covered. Since the pols have mostly dropped the payroll tax idea, the numbers are dubious at best and fraudulent at worst. If the end objective is to plug the black hole in the MTA budget, then the low toll numbers do not make sense from anything but a political standpoint. And as you point out, this is all theater on Weiner’s part.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “I also love it how politicians throw around toll amounts based on numbers pulled from you-know-where, with no analysis of how much toll revenue the MTA actually needs built into the toll numbers they offer up.”

    As I discussed the moment I read the Ravitch Plan, it didn’t provide all the money the MTA “needs” either.

    It needs to pay for operations, accrued rights to pensions and retiree health care, and ongoing normal replacement portions of the capital plan, with current, ongoing revenues, not debt. It could probably do so with its current revenues and reasonable fare increases.

    But it is also stuck with the massive debt load and unfunded pension and retiree benefit costs run up in the past 15 years.

    The Ravitch Plan did not provide enough revenue for both. It assumed running up the debt, and then needed just as much in additional taxes and fees five years from now.

  • mfs

    Such a scheme that privileges one set of residents over another would be unconstitutional, it’s why we don’t have a commuter tax anymore.

  • Gargamel Tralfaz

    Wow, what the blazes? Bloomberg was looking vulnerable a few months ago, and yet we have illogical ideas from potential candidates like this. Bloomberg is starting to look stronger, I say let these kinds of ideas get lots of press cause it will just make Bloomberg more appealing, even to those of us very angry he is running for a 3rd term.

  • Steve321

    Why should I have to pay a subway fare going to work in Manhattan Mr. Weiner while you propose drivers to receive a free ride into Manhattan? Does Wiener think NYC residents are stupid? His proposal doesn’t do anything to close the MTA deficit. Wiener should be proposing $20.00 toll entering Manhattan during rush hour to discourage driving and encouraging MASS TRANSIT use. Mass Transit is good for the environment and health of NYC residents. Wiener is a typical NY politician. He probably drives around NYC at tax payers expense and rarely uses Mass transit. He will not get my vote if he runs for mayor and a majority of NYC residents who use Mass Transit.

  • vnm
  • Vin

    This is an incredibly silly idea. However, it’s worth point out that it may address the possibly-even-sillier opposition to East River tolls by area legislators, thus making them possible.

    Not saying I like the idea, but it’s the kind of thing that starts to make a sort-of perverse sense when you think about it for a minute. If this is the way to East River tolls, I’ll take it.

  • King C. and VNM had it right. What a pandering tool.

  • Larry Littlefield

    What Weiner doesn’t understand is that the rest of the state is full of people who share his mentality, and they have the power in Albany. So the city is unlikely to get something for nothing at their expense; it always works the other way.

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