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Bridge Tolls

Will the Fare Hike Four Face Pro-Transit Primary Challengers?

3:39 PM EDT on May 11, 2010

Last week we profiled Igor Oberman, the challenger gunning to unseat State Senator Carl Kruger this September who's made support for transit, including bridge tolls, a centerpiece of his campaign. So, what's going on with the other three members of the Fare Hike Four -- Pedro Espada, Rubén Díaz Sr., and Hiram Monserrate. Their anti-transit obstinacy undercut the MTA's finances, leading to the sweeping service cuts about to take effect, but have they drawn challengers committed to improving subways and buses? In these three districts, it seems, unseating the incumbents wouldn't necessarily mean that the work of transit advocacy is done. 

Monserrate, of course, was expelled from the State Senate and then defeated in a special election for his old seat by Assembly Member José Peralta. Peralta was one of the leading opponents of bridge tolls in the Assembly and put his opposition to congestion pricing front and center on his campaign website. In Peralta's Senate district, 53.3 percent of households do not own a car [PDF].

Ramos_with_Hunter_Speaking.jpgCarlos Ramos, Jr. and Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter.

Carlos "Charlie" Ramos, Jr., formerly an aide to Comptroller William Thompson, announced that he was challenging Díaz just a couple of weeks ago. Ramos told Streetsblog that he is "unequivocally opposed to raising fares to subsidize the commutes of suburban residents" and boasted that he "grew up riding the El train" through the Bronx, but was not ready at this point in his campaign to offer any solutions for how to keep fares low, given the MTA's fiscal condition.

In a press release tied to the Staten Island Ferry crash, Ramos announced his general support for sustainable transportation. "Innovative ways to relieve vehicular congestion in the city, such as the 'Yankee Ferry' here in the Bronx, should be explored in an effort to reduce our carbon footprint and thwart potential environmental hazards," the statement read.

In the district where Ramos is running, 67.0 percent of households do not own a car [PDF].

Desiree Pilgrim-Hunter, a leader in the fight for higher wages at the Kingsbridge Armory, has taken on scandal-battered Pedro Espada. Before she takes any position on MTA financing, Pilgrim-Hunter told us, she wants to "look at the books -- the real books -- to look at what's going on and how this money is being managed." 

She stressed that she supported the MTA ("We have the best transportation system in the world, just about"), but declined to give a specific answer about how she'd help provide the transit system with financial stability. "We've seen service cuts, we've seen fare hikes, we've seen new taxes," she said. "Somehow it doesn't seem to work, or it's just a temporary fix. I think we need to look at the entire structure of the MTA and whether it needs an overhaul."

Pilgrim-Hunter also spoke about her last big tangle with the MTA, over the location of a Select Bus Service stop in her neighborhood. She thought that the stop, located at the bottom of a steep hill, wasn't accessible to senior citizens or the disabled. Though Pilgrim-Hunter was successful in getting the stop moved, she still has doubts about the Fordham Road bus improvements overall. "It has caused us to lose businesses," she said, "because the stops have taken away the parking for the businesses to get their deliveries and for their customers to come."

In the district where Pilgrim-Hunter is running, 71.5 percent of households do not own a car [PDF].

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