Carl Paladino’s Crusade for Free Driving

Last week, we profiled Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s transportation platform, which tended in the direction of airy platitudes. In contrast, his Republican opponent Carl Paladino has probably never been accused of playing things too safe, and on transportation policy, he’s true to form. Paladino’s been blitzing the campaign trail with a no-holds-barred anti-toll, anti-transit message.

Image: Paladino Campaign.
Image: ## Campaign.##

Opposition to paying for road use is one of Paladino’s central political beliefs. In fact, it’s how he got started in politics.

In the gubernatorial race, this has shown up in Paladino’s call to eliminate the $11.00 toll over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (which only applies westbound, and if you’re a Staten Island resident with E-ZPass, is actually $5.48 — not much more than two subway fares). In a September press release, the Paladino campaign wrote: “Tolls collected at the bridge – the only roadway access to the island from the rest of New York City – do not serve the residents but rather go to subsidize public transportation like the New York City subway, which does not extend to Staten Island.” Paladino’s position not only would open up an additional floodgate of drivers, but it also conveniently skips over the nearly one in three Staten Island commuters who do in fact take public transit.

Such a position isn’t surprising, however, given Paladino’s history. The Buffalo real estate developer got his start in politics fighting to eliminate the tolls on I-190. According to Crain’s New York, Paladino got involved in that fight in 2005. He sued the state on the grounds that the tolls couldn’t continue once the bonds on that section of the Thruway had been paid off. The Thruway Authority duly removed the tolls.

Paladino has also voiced his opposition to the tolls across the Tappan Zee Bridge. That bridge is currently due for a multi-billion dollar replacement, which the state has no idea how to fund.

Other MTA revenue streams have come in for attacks just as blistering as the bombs Paladino lobbed at the Verrazano tolls. In a speech to a business forum last Tuesday, Paladino lit into Cuomo for supporting the payroll mobility tax. “Did you know if we repeal this onerous tax, taxpayers would save one-and-a-half billion dollars every year?” he asked. He argued that suburban taxpayers don’t benefit from the tax and claimed he could make up for its revenues by “cleaning up the waste, fraud and abuse at the MTA to assure taxpayer money is not flushed down the MTA toilet like it is today.”

And on his website, Paladino promises to slash the state gas tax. The website argues that the tax hurts not only drivers, but even those who walk to work, by raising the cost of transporting goods and hurting tourism. Paladino’s tax and toll policies would mean far less revenue for transportation than today, with incentives shifted wildly towards more driving.

Paladino also has staked out ground as a leading MTA-basher. At the same business forum speech, Paladino announced that if elected he would “take the MTA apart piece by piece.” He promised not only to replace the authority’s entire management, but also to eliminate the authority itself, folding it into the state Department of Transportation, where it would be “back under the control of the people.” Of course, the governor already appoints the head of the MTA, the legislature controls many of its revenue streams, and the state has considerable oversight powers, including control of the MTA’s capital plan.

While Paladino doesn’t seem to think that transit service is a public good worth supporting collectively, he doesn’t feel that way about automobile infrastructure. In 2000, Paladino proposed that the state government tear down its Buffalo office building and replace it with a 1,500 space parking garage. “It’s time we started looking at parking as a public service,” he said, according to a Michael Daly column in the Daily News.

Paladino does not appear to have public positions on other important transportation issues facing the state, such as smart growth or bike and pedestrian safety. We have a request in with the Paladino campaign for more information on his transportation platform and have yet to hear back.


Cuomo’s Econ Plan Whispers Sweet Transportation Nothings

When Andrew Cuomo released his “New York Works” economic development plan earlier this week, much attention was paid to the fact that he did it in Carl Paladino’s backyard. But there’s also a full chapter on rebuilding New York State’s infrastructure, particularly its transportation system, buried in that document. The Cuomo transportation plan bears all […]

Got a Question for Albany?

The august New York State Senate. Photo: AP For as long as Streetsblog has been covering the transportation reform beat, Albany has been a graveyard for progressive transportation legislation affecting New York City. Sheldon Silver and Assembly Democrats buried congestion pricing there in 2008. The State Senate poured cement shoes for bridge tolls last year, […]

Thursday’s Headlines: Live on NY1 Edition

Forgive me if I make this quick, but I'm on tap to serve up Borscht Belt shtick as a foil to Pat Kiernan's legendary Canadian politeness on NY1 this morning at around 7:20. Tune in and watch me defend bike lanes. Meanwhile, it was a busy day yesterday, so click for all the news!