Today’s Headlines

  • With Americans Driving Less, Highway Deaths Dropped 9 Percent in 2008 (NYT)
  • Senate Dems Turning Their Attention Back to MTA Rescue (Politicker)
  • Service Cuts to Begin in June; Senate Republicans Say They’ll Talk, But Not About Payroll Tax (NY1)
  • TWU Launches TV Ads Targeting NYC’s Senate GOP Contingent (News)
  • News Columnist: Tolling Bridges = ‘Class Warfare’
  • Clyde Haberman: Albany Needs a Lesson from the Great Philosophers (NYT)
  • NYT Likes Schumer’s Cash-for-Clunkers Bill
  • Ex-Pols Register Vanity Plates Just Like Their Old, Park-Anywhere Versions (News)
  • Post Stirs Anti-Enforcement Rage With Report on Red Light Cam Expansion
  • IL Legislature Approves $496M in Capital Projects for Chicago Transit (CTA Tattler via Streetsblog.net)
  • Commuter Bike Porn (A Continuous Lean)
  • Ashcan Sam

    Senate Rebuplicans: How about a medium-sized fare hike, bridge tolls and no payroll tax?

  • News Columnist: Tolling Bridges = ‘Class Warfare’

    Well, yes. It’s been class warfare since they first took the tolls off the bridges.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “News Columnist: Tolling Bridges = ‘Class Warfare’ Well, yes. It’s been class warfare since they first took the tolls off the bridges.”

    When the Brooklyn Bridge had tolls, it also had a permanent crew of workers maintaining it. Same with the other bridges. Some time after the tolls were removed, maintenance stopped.

    The Brooklyn Bridge has been rebuilt twice since with general tax dollars, at huge expense. The other bridges at least once. Still, little ongoing maintenance. It is considered a “capital investment” to paint the damn things.

    In 1954, a consultant recommended rebuilding the Manhattan Bridge and building a tunnel for the trains. Nothing was done. After further rotting that almost made it too far gone to repair, it was rebuilt over TWENTY YEARS, and during that entire time lanes were out of service and subway services was degraded. None of these pols, many of whom have been there since the last ice age froze out elections, had anything to say about it.

    So it isn’t just transit riders who are losers when people want things and don’t want to pay for them. It is also future drivers.

    And it isn’t just drivers who don’t want to pay. The fare cuts relative to inflation over the past 15 years also led to soaring debt and a lack of cost control, since borrowed money is “free.” And after all those years of “saving the fare” (and enhancing the pension) the transit system was left a wreck in the 1970s.

    Is human greed and selfishness such that collective services (subways, parks, schools etc) cannot be provided, because they will inevitably seized by the self interested who will milk them until they collapse? Or is that just OUR culture.

  • chris

    While I think tolls are necessary, I think the editorial writer makes a good point about the political undercurrent of supposed elitism of Manhattanites. I am from Canarsie (East Brooklyn) but no longer live there. The elitist sentiment is VERY real and, to the extent that polticians represent the most vociferous of their constituents, the Senators that don’t want the tolls are doing just that.

    These areas have crappy, long, irregular, and local train service. The bus service is a joke as well. If you want to go to Manhattan and have it not take two hours, you need to take a car. It’s that simple.

    A toll supporter COULD counter with “well, if they had tolls on the bridges, the MTA would have money to provide better service to these areas.” That is simply untrue – these areas do not have the density to support regular and dependable service to these areas. The MTA is mostly demand driven when it comes to their scheduling.

    SO – Manhattan already has better train service, has more cabs, and (if bridge tolls were to pass) now will be able to maintain its level of service because of tolls that fall mostly on Outer borough residents.

    IF the MTA were to present an aggressive plan to get people out of their cars and into Mass Transit in these places, a bridge toll would most likely pass. But they won’t. And therefore I have to agree with the Senators that are blocking this bill, as it really comes down to an equity issue.

  • RE: News Columnist: Tolling Bridges = ‘Class Warfare’

    It’s only “class warfare” to those who–like this columnist–choose to make it so. To the rest of us who understand a little something about supply and demand, the main effect of “free” bridges into Manhattan is congestion, which affects everybody. Even class warriors seem to understand that Manhattan parking shouldn’t be free–why do they have such a hard time understanding the economics of bridges?

  • Larry Littlefield

    “These areas have crappy, long, irregular, and local train service. The bus service is a joke as well. If you want to go to Manhattan and have it not take two hours, you need to take a car. It’s that simple.”

    Why would someone who traveled to Manhattan frequently choose to live in such places?

    Class cuts both ways. Until a few years ago, many people moved to places without subway service because the subway brought “crime,” which is to say made middle class neighborhoods accessible to those from poor neighborhoods.

    When I moved down from the Bronx to Windsor Terrace in the mid-1980s, for example, subway accessible Windsor Terrace was full of people who would rather have lived in subway inaccessible Dyker Heights, but couldn’t afford it. Now Windsor Terrace is as expensive or more expensive.

    Moreover, to many who chose to live beyond the subway the subways were for the low class people. It isn’t the lack of transit that offends people from these areas; it’s the belief that they should have to ride with the inferiors rather than drive like real Americans.

    People with these attitudes are gradually being replaced with other people in these neighborhoods. Politicians with these attitudes are not being replaced.

  • A toll supporter COULD counter with “well, if they had tolls on the bridges, the MTA would have money to provide better service to these areas.” That is simply untrue – these areas do not have the density to support regular and dependable service to these areas.

    Yeah, Chris, I’ve heard that a lot. I don’t buy it.

    60-70 years ago, these areas you’re talking about were mostly farmland and swamp. Most of the population has moved there much more recently. They had crappy transit service then too. These people knew what they were getting into, but they were counting on City Hall to keep maintaining and expanding their free car infrastructure. Now we know that that’s unsustainable and expensive as hell, and we’re going broke paying for it. How long should we be expected to subsidize these people and their “suburban” status symbols?

  • The AP also does a disgusting number on the red light cameras story:
    http://www.1010wins.com/New-York-To-Expand-Use-of-Red-Light-Traffic-Camera/4152768

  • Boris

    “IF the MTA were to present an aggressive plan to get people out of their cars and into Mass Transit in these places, a bridge toll would most likely pass. But they won’t.”

    That’s actually exactly what they did- the Ravitch Commission suggested a modest increase in bus service in outlying areas, and yet even this plan went practically nowhere.

    The “aggressive” plan would be the MTA board asking for $100 billion for their next capital plan and double or triple the operating funds. Who’s going to take them seriously? It’s not up to the MTA to do this, because it doesn’t control the purse strings.

  • The bus service is a joke as well. If you want to go to Manhattan and have it not take two hours, you need to take a car. It’s that simple.

    The BM2 goes to Midtown in about an hour and a half. Not great, but well under two hours.

    As Larry pointed out, if you’re taking a “free” bridge, you’re not paying your fair share for even the upkeep of the bridge, let alone for the added congestion.

  • People with these attitudes are gradually being replaced with other people in these neighborhoods.

    Verrry gradually. Subway expansion in the outer boroughs is still a non-starter due to NIMBYism. I remember the mere mention of the possibility of extending the N to LaGuardia a while back caused the folks’ who live mere blocks away from the current terminus heads to explode.

  • The new cameras will being the city’s total to 150.

    The writers at the Post are so hopping mad they can’t even spell right.

  • Glenn

    With all this wranggling over different pieces of the Ravitch plan, I find it more and more compelling by the day. Sorry I don’t share the view that Streetsblog has been pushing that it’s “not exciting” or C. Komanoff’s view that it was not fair to the outerboroughs.

    The tolls might seem “unfair” to outerborough folks, but really it is balanced by the fact that the money from the payroll tax would come from Manhattan residents – remember there’s no limit to that tax – if you make a million, you pay $2,500, but if you only make $30,000, then you pay $75. So Manhattanites pay their fair share through the income tax.

    Within the outerboroughs there is a nice balance between the income tax paid by everyone that benefits from being close to Manhattan and the actual users of the bridges and subway riders.

    For the Suburbs, they pay a lot less across the board (lower incomes, less tolls) and they receive fewer of the benefits, but they still pay a fair share since they benefit from their proximity to vibrant dense city where many of their highest income residents make their living.

    It’s almost comical watching all the different player complain about one piece of the puzzle, but not realize that the original plan represented a fair deal all around. the laughter will turn to crying very soon if a comprehensive funding plan is not passed.

  • chris

    @ Larry “Moreover, to many who chose to live beyond the subway the subways were for the low class people. It isn’t the lack of transit that offends people from these areas; it’s the belief that they should have to ride with the inferiors rather than drive like real Americans.”

    I agree that at one point your argument held water. But some of these outlying areas, especially in Canarsie and Flatlands, had some of the lower real estate costs in the City recently. This allowed lower middle class people to purchase a home. Given the cost of parking in Manhattan (a market based cost of driving into the City) areas that were proximate to transit became more expensive. My point is that it is not only old schoolers who live in these outer neighborhoods – it is also recent immigrant groups, like the Carribean influx into Canarsie, for instance – that are now the Gang of Four’s base. They accepted the lower housing price with less city services tradeoff to live there. That is one reason why the “class” issue comes up.

    @ Cap’n Transit – “Suburban” status symbols? Have you been to East Brooklyn? It’s mostly connected row houses.

    Further, when you say “what these People (the beginnings of an implicit stereotypical argument, mind you”) knew they were getting into…?” What exactly did they know? They knew they lived far from the train and would have to use their car on roads that they didn’t pay for.

    If you want to compare apples to apples – Transit riders do not pay the full fare of transit either, much like car users have to pay the gas tax, as well as registration fees. It is not completely “free”, much like transit riders do not pay the full fare that they should be charged.

    @Boris – I agree – it won’t be taken seriously b/c the MTA doesn’t control the purse strings. BUT – the MTA should have pushed a lot harder than it, and should have made more of their plan for the Outer Boroughs than they did. The modest plan was purely for show -they wanted the tolls for the bridges from the beginning.

  • I don’t usually agree with Republicans, but I think they’re probably right about the payroll tax. Tolls can raise money *and* bring about other positive changes.

    Re. the thing about former elected officials having vanity plates, does TA have any actual proof that there’s any skirting of the law involved? Because that article reads like pure conjecture.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Some of these outlying areas, especially in Canarsie and Flatlands, had some of the lower real estate costs in the City recently. This allowed lower middle class people to purchase a home.”

    When I was looking for a home I considered these neighborhoods inaccessible for someone who wanted to minimize auto use and work in the CBD.

    My new perspective as a bike commuter is different. A two mile bike ride to the train is the equivalent of a 1/2 mile walk, and much more convenient and better for your health than a bus ride.

    In fact — and those who have traveled more than I have would know better — in areas of other countries with densities similar to the “beyond the subway” portions of the outer boroughs, people do bike the subway.

    And as I recall the last station on the Canarsie line might be the greatest bike to subway location in NYC. And the Canarsie line is schedule for a 40 minute run from end to end, with a quick and easy transfer to the Lex, 6th and 8th Avenue lines.

    If Canarsie politicians really cared about mass transit, they might have demanded tail tracks at 8th Avenue to increase capacity when the signal system was being rebuilt. But I doubt any of them have ever ridden the train.

    Finally, the areas you speak of (along with the one-family home area of Flatbush) benefit from the “Meade Esposito Limited” B103 bus, which takes folks directly from these neighborhoods to political jobs in Downtown Brooklyn.

  • Glenn

    Josh – like I said above, I think the Ravitch plan was well balanced and fair to all concerned. It would also be a good win for the environmental goals.

    Getting rid of the payroll tax means something else has to give. I’m just not sure the Republicans will favor tolls over raising the fare since they care more about the Suburban drivers than mass transit riders.

    But sure, I’d prefer raising all the money through higher tolls all around…

  • Glenn

    I love that Upstate NY Senators want to secede from Downstate.

    http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2009/04/upstate_senators_want_a_divorc.html

    They can take Richard Brodsky and all of Westchester country too…

  • Larry Littlefield

    Speaking of Upstate:

    http://blogs.timesunion.com/capitol/archives/13313/mtas-upstate-connection

    “Silver quickly put the onus on the Senate Republicans, questioning not only their leader, Long Island’s Dean Skelos, but upstate lawmakers since, he noted that there are companies that make buses (DamlierChrysler’s Orion Bus Industries in Oriskany, represented by Sen. Joe Griffo) and trains (Bombardier trains are built in Plattsburgh, represented by Betty Little), that serve the MTA.”

    “If the MTA isn’t rescued and its capitol plan runs out of funding, Silver noted that could turn into job losses upstate. “There are people employed in those districts,” said Silver. ‘There are people in those districts who may not be employed because of the failure to have a realistic capital plan.'”

    Personally, I thought the MTA bought too many subway cars in the most recent capital plan, in that the R32 “Brightliners” could have lasted another decade, and should have invested more in the infrastructure. Then again, perhaps it was better that more wasn’t spent downstate given the prices contractors have been charging.

  • James

    Uh Glenn, Westchester is firmly part of downstate, as are Rockland County and Long Island. LOTS of people, myself included, cross the city-suburb boundary for work, errands, and other needs, which is not the case with the city and upstate, which is far more remote. Brodsky may be a PITA but he is far more reasonable than a lot of the upstate pols (do the words “Gantt” and “bus lane cameras” ring a bell?)

  • in areas of other countries with densities similar to the “beyond the subway” portions of the outer boroughs, people do bike the subway.

    If New York were picked up and dropped down in (say) Europe, we wouldn’t be having any of these arguments. A neighborhood as dense as Canarsie (and it IS quite dense even by Euro-standards) would have sufficient bus service or even rail service that a car would not necessarily be required. The fact is they just spend a lot more on it than we do. We can argue all day about which population segment contributes more, but until we as a country change our priorities, people in places like Canarsie are going to continue driving everywhere.

  • Glenn

    I know James, I was just trying to inject a little humor. But really, I’m not sure how upstate would function without downstate revenues unless they took everything north of the Bronx border.

    Manhattan seceding from the rest of the state would be enough to throw the whole NY state system into disarray.

  • Upstate pays high taxes like the rest of the state, and they get high services in return. If they want to secede and turn into something like a northern version of Mississippi (low tax, low service), fine. Some people say that will bring more business, and it will, but it will still degrade nearly everything else. But I suspect that most Upstaters don’t make that connection.

  • the R32 “Brightliners” could have lasted another decade

    And they will, on the R line. I’m not holding my breath waiting for any new trains there. I wonder, is the future of the capital budget as bleak as I suspect it is?

  • Larry Littlefield

    “I’m not holding my breath waiting for any new trains there.”

    I believe the whole R160 order is paid for (with borrowed money of course). The R32s are being scrapped as we speak, and without the proper send off IMHO. They were among the most reliable NYCT ever had.

    “I wonder, is the future of the capital budget as bleak as I suspect it is?”

    If it is, all the more reason they not have invested so much in new cars. If the IND signals wear out, nothing moves on anything linked to it, including BMT lines like the Astoria line.

  • Actually, the R32s on the R line aren’t that bad. For some reason they don’t reek inside nearly as much as the “newer” trains (R42? 44?), and it’s amusing to watch their patched roofs when they enter the station.

    Yeah, signals failing would suck. It’s amazing that we even have to choose between cars with breathable air and signals that don’t break down. Kunstler’s right when he says we have a “third world” transportation system.