Bill de Blasio Comes Out for $2 East River Bridge Tolls

Late last week, Brooklyn City Council member and current candidate for public advocate Bill de Blasio released this statement on MTA funding:

"In just two months, New York City commuters will face drastic fare
hikes and service cuts unless our state government solves the MTA’s
budget crisis. Time is running
out and Albany needs to act now. In light of these troubling
circumstances, I am supporting Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s
proposal to combine a payroll tax with a toll on the East and Harlem
River bridges set at two dollars, the same amount as a subway fare.
Final legislation must permanently keep these tolls at the level of
subway fares and the revenue generated should be used to maintain and
improve outer-borough transportation services. In the past I have
supported several different solutions to this problem, from reinstating
the commuter tax to increasing driver registration fees. Now, above
all, I believe Albany needs to fix this problem before straphangers
across our city are left carrying the burden by themselves."

De Blasio’s support of bridge tolls is notable for a few reasons. As far as we know, he’s the sole City Council member to come out in favor of new tolls, when he could just as easily have remained silent. And considering his opposition to congestion pricing, de Blasio’s stance on East River tolls is all the more surprising.

The timing is also significant. Now that Albany’s suburban contingent has put its foot down on the proposed payroll tax, could de Blasio help revive Silver’s toll plan, rousing key senators like Velmanette Montgomery to do the right thing?

Meanwhile, candidates for de Blasio’s council seat have also weighed in. Brad Lander, Josh Skaller and Gary Reilly have all called on Albany to take action, with Lander and Reilly specifically endorsing East River bridge tolls.

  • nobody

    This is great news!

    “Final legislation must permanently keep these tolls at the level of subway fares”

    Weak, but I’ll take it. Legislation can be introduced later to change this to be more equitable (charge drivers much more).

  • drosejr

    The more cynical of us would instead view this as an empty announcement designed at putting pressure on the other outer-borough advocate candidates (ie John Liu), and forcing them to state if they want to their constituents to be subject to budget-breaking fare hikes or if they too would be willing to toll their constituents. de Blasio gets to be first out of the box, and can either say “I told you so” or blame his opponents for the fare hike.

  • mfs

    So now can somebody thank the WFP? Note that the only two early-endorsed WFP candidates have come out for some sort of reasonable shared sacrifice.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “The more cynical of us.”

    Are you referring to me?

    As I’ve written extensively elsewhere, some form of doomsday is going to visited on somebody, or everybody, now or in the near future as a result of self-serving, shortsighted decisions in the past.

    So I see everything that is going on now as posturing to avoid blame.

    Anyone who wants to claim to be a hero (or, more accurately, fellow victim since heroes by definition succeed) needs to go back three, five, eight, ten years and show what they did or try to do to prevent this.


    I have loudly and repeatedly endorsed bridge tolls dedicated to funding the MTA, along with other dedicated funding, such as fees and fines from residential parking permits. I have specifically called for bridge tolls at parity with the existing tolled crossings, such as the Battery Tunnel.


  • Glenn

    That’s great Gary. Brad should correct the post.

  • Done.

  • To further clarify:

    I have testified on record before the the Congestion Pricing Commission in person and in writing in favor of tolling the bridges. I testified in January at the MTA Brooklyn hearing. I have specifically and repeatedly endorsed the Ravitch Plan.

    I have personally lobbied Bill deBlasio, Joan Millman, Marty Connor (then) and Dan Squadron (now) in favor of congestion pricing and my preferred solution, bridge tolls. I have written to David Paterson and Malcolm Smith to demand action, including tolls. And I have called Senate Majority leader Smith’s AND Minority Leader Skelos’s offices to denounce the inaction from the Senate, again specifically calling for tolls.

    And I would bet I have endorsed tolls on more than one occasion in the Streetsblog comments and on my own blog,

    So . . . just putting that out there. Thank you Streetsblog and all the transit/livable streets activists who are making a difference out there.

  • Thanks Brad. You got it while I was typing my second comment. Much appreciated.

  • Clarence

    Wow it is a Bridge Toll support bonanza!! Special kudos to Councilmember DeBlasio who is doing the right thing.

    Now if State Senator Montgomery could really see the light and wholeheartedly endorse bridge tolls!

  • MikeyLuv

    I don’t get how this is “shared sacrifice” when bridge tolls will disproportionately hit EverybodyButManhattan, just like the congestion pricing business would have hit the everyone except the Bloombergistas. How’s that shared sacrifice? Or are you referring to cars vs. subway? I didn’t notice subway fares being tied to gasoline prices or insurance rates ever, have you?

    But none of that matters. This is still about everybody drinking the MTA kool-aid about “doomsday” without coming clean in a forensic audit. I think the Senate is on to something with that. There plan produced operating money and said it would address the capital expenses AFTER the audit.

    Anybody curious if the MTA is being stuck with a billion or so in penalty payments because AIG was there mortgage insurer? Maybe we ought to find out. The MTA’s scare tactics are right up there with the Bush administration’s Alert Color Codes. Open up the books.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Write the MTA Mike, they will send you the books. Its good reading.

  • How is it, MikeyLuv, that bridge tolls hit EverybodyButManhattan? We’re not talking about Lincoln Tunnel-style one-way bridge tolls. We’re talking about two-way bridge tolls. We’re talking about paying to leave, paying to enter. As my mom always says, she has to pay to leave the island and enter. So should everyone else.

    Do you read the subway from an outer borough into Manhattan? Do you ride the subway intra-Manhattan? You’re already paying a toll then to enter, leave and get around. Keeping the East River Bridges free just makes no sense.

  • Looks like MikeyLuv has been drinking the Fare Hike Four’s Kool-Aid.

    Here, Mikey, here’s a nice starting point for you:

    If you have any other questions, you can attend the MTA’s Finance Committee meetings. They’re open to the public and the next one occurs on Monday, April 27th.

    It’s amazing what you can find by simply going to the MTA’s web site and following links on the front page. I bet it would surprise a certain few of our State Senators, too.


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