The High Cost of Free Riders

Whenever the prospect of funding our transit system with bridge tolls or congestion pricing arises, you can count on a hue and cry from aggrieved motorists about subsidizing other people’s commutes. But if the bridges stay free, who’s really paying for somebody else’s ride? Today’s Times story about the last phase of Manhattan Bridge reconstruction is a welcome reminder that the city’s bridges are already costly:

All told, about $830 million has been spent repairing the bridge, which
suffered from neglect during the city’s financial crisis in the 1970s,
said Brian Gill, the chief engineer of Manhattan Bridge reconstruction
for the Transportation Department.

As long as there’s no price on these bridges, we all pay for those free rides.

  • To be fair, a lot of that money was federal. But there was also a very substantial city contribution. Same thing for the other bridges, which have been extensively reconstructed over the last 25 years or so.

  • Doug

    Amazingly, the source of most of the wear and tear on the bridge — vehicular traffic — will continue to flow for free during this construction. Paying subway riders will see their service cut on occasional weekends, making it challenging for some people to get into Manhattan or Brooklyn for work, errands, or fun. Bike riders and walkers will lose half of their access to the bridge. But 6,000 lb SUVS? Keep ’em coming!

  • Just wait! There’s hundreds of millions about to be spent on the Brooklyn Bridge that could have been used for transit or pedestrian/bike infrastructure.

  • Sam

    “Amazingly, the source of most of the wear and tear on the bridge — vehicular traffic — will continue to flow for free during this construction.”

    Actually it’s the trains crossing the bridge which cause excessive wear due to a design flaw. It’s a design flaw – the tracks are on the outside of the roadway. When trains cross they cause the roadway to twist far more than it would if the tracks had been placed in the center like they are on the Williamsburg bridge.

  • Manhattan User

    The cause of the wear and tear is 3 fold:

    Lack of maintenance – The City ignored the East River Bridges for Decades, jsut as it ignored the Transit system when it controlled it. Didn’t Ed Koch coin the prhase that “Bridges don’t vote” so don’t spend any money on the.
    Truck Traffic – Heavy trucks going into Manhattan to either make deliveries or to get on the interstates.

    Finally and actually for the Manhattan and Williamsburg the greates factor. TRAINS. The trains crossing the bridges do a number on the structure. The Manhattan bridge actuly twists 6′ everytime a train goes over it. Maybe the MTA should reimburse the City for the damage that their trains are doing to City property.

  • Jim

    While we’re on the subject, who pays for the cost of a military necessary to protect our crude supplies, the costs of global warming, the cost of air and noise pollution, and the healthcare costs associated with lack of physical activity and consequently obesity? Oh that’s right, all of us. Driving a car in this country is ridiculously cheap considering the broader implications.

  • To be fair, a lot of that money was federal.

    Federal money doesn’t grow on trees, either. And since “Federal” money funds bridge work in Montana and Mississippi and Indiana and everywhere else, it’s all a wash. Free bridges are an unfair tax on those who don’t drive over them.

  • Ray

    Considering that NY is a donor state, we’re paying for our bridges and for those elsewhere across the USA. It’s always irked me when people in the midwest and farwest boast about their “free”ways. They’re not free!!!


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