Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Bridge Tolls

The Short History of Queensboro Bridge Tolls

qborograb.jpgIn 1909, wrote the Times, tolls on the brand new Queensboro Bridge were temporarily suspended for a "touring contest" on Long Island, described as "an enjoyable diversion for a great many New York and Brooklyn motorists."

We learned from yesterday's Queensboro Bridge centennial commemoration that the toll was 10 cents for car crossings in 1909. But it wasn't long before motorists were granted the free ride they enjoy to this day. In the midst of the 2002 fight over East River bridge tolls, the Times reported:

All four city bridges had tolls in the early 1900's, including one forpedestrians on the Brooklyn Bridge. But they were abolished in 1911under Mayor William J. Gaynor, who called them ''inconvenient andirksome'' and declared, ''For my part, I see no more reason fortollgates on the bridges than for tollgates on Fifth Avenue orBroadway.''

Gaynor, a one-time Tammany favorite and apparent inspiration to future city leaders, was also opposed to expansion of the subway system, according to his official bio. In 1910, Gaynor was shot in the throat by a disgruntled city employee, an injury that would end his life three years later. Months after the attack, the mayor ordered the East River bridges to go toll-free, recounted Aaron Naparstek in 2006, prompting speculation in local transpo circles of a link between the two incidents:

While "there's never been a serious connection drawn between the assassination attempt and Gaynor's tolling policy," says former Department of Transportation Deputy Commissioner "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz, "I'm suspicious."

Check out Aaron's full post, written upon the advent of the city's latest congestion pricing debate, for more on the sordid, sometimes violent, and seemingly interminable struggle to preserve the privileges of New York's motoring class.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

Justice Dept., Citing Streetsblog Reporting, Threatens to Sue NYPD Over Cops’ Sidewalk Parking

The city is now facing a major civil rights suit from the Biden Administration if it doesn't eliminate illegal parking by cops and other city workers.

April 19, 2024

What to Say When Someone Claims ‘No One Bikes or Walks in Bad Weather’

Yes, sustainable modes are more vulnerable to bad weather. But that's why we should invest more in them — not less.

April 19, 2024

NYC Transit’s New Operations Planning Chief Wants To Fight ‘Ghost Buses’

One-time transit advocate and current MTA Paratransit VP Chris Pangilinan will oversee bus and subway operations for the whole city.

April 19, 2024

Friday’s Headlines: Gimme Bus Shelter Edition

The days of the Landmarks Preservation Commission reviewing every proposed bus shelter in landmarked districts may be no more. Plus more news.

April 19, 2024

Deal Reached: Hochul Says ‘Sammy’s Law’ Will Pass

The bill, though imperfect, has been four years in the making.

April 18, 2024
See all posts