The Toll Map That Should Pique the Interest of Every Staten Island Elected

In case you missed it, today the Staten Island Advance rounded up outraged quotes from local politicos in response to the MTA’s proposed fare and toll hikes. Big emphasis on “toll hikes” — it’s the prospect of paying more to cross the Verrazano Bridge that has State Senator Andrew Lanza vowing to somehow defeat the proposal in Albany, while U.S. Representative Michael Grimm pledged to do the same through an act of Congress.

Just putting this out there, but there’s a more productive way to represent Staten Island commuters, including the substantial number who take transit, than bashing the MTA. Sam Schwartz’s Fair Plan [PDF] would ratchet down the tolls on the Verrazano — from the current $5.76 for local E-ZPass holders and $13 cash toll to $4.60 and $8, respectively. At the same time, the plan raises funds for transit (and roads) by putting a price on the crossings that are most congested. Here’s what that looks like on a map:

Image: ## Schwartz##

No act of Congress required, but Albany will have to get on board.

  • I’m a cyclist who’s just moved to New York from London. As I recount here (, the biggest single improvement in cycling conditions in my 15 years’ cycling in London was introduction of the central London congestion charge in 2003. It at first reduced congestion by 30 per cent. The fall in numbers of vehicles entering the charging zone has been permanent (although some congestion has returned because of a reduction in road space). A big part of the reduction in journeys through Central London resulted from the diversion of through traffic away from central London towards more suitable routes – exactly what your proposals would achieve.

    The problems, of course, are two-fold. As you point out, Albany would have to get on board – and there seem to be enough knuckle-heads up there to scupper anything as sensible as this. Secondly, I’m mildly skeptical, given the media treatment of Janette Sadik-Khan’s sensible policies, that anyone is going to be willing to run in the next mayoral election on this platform…

  • KillMoto

    Mayor Bloomberg can impose congestion pricing without permission from the state.  Just schedule road repairs in a way that maximizes inconvenience.  Close incoming lanes in the morning, outgoing in the evening.  Have DOT and NYPD stop large trucks transiting the city – for routine inspections of length, licenses, cargo – whatever. 

    Make it painful enough to enter the CBD, and people will seek alternatives on their own.  If price signals are forbidden by the State, use time signals. 

  • Ben Kintisch

    The great myth of outer borough politics is that it’s all drivers, all the time. Even though car ownership rates are higher outside of Manhattan, the current tolling scheme makes no sense whatsoever. Mr. Schwartz’s plan would be great for residents of all five boroughs.

  • jrab

    How does this help Staten Island drivers? Their round trip to Manhattan goes up to $14.60 from the current $5.76.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “How does this help Staten Island drivers? Their round trip to Manhattan goes up to $14.60 from the current $5.76.”

    Staten Island drivers are less likely to be going to Manhattan than drivers from elsewhere.  Most of the best off people on the Rock own small businesses or work for the city, often in places such as Brooklyn or Queens.

  • Guest

    The differential for cash/ez-pass payments on the free East River bridges should be greater – with limited space for tolling booths, the cash payers will impose a greater time delay on the EZ-pass users than they would at bridges with larger tolling areas.

  • @85211970d034887d032f8c319f70adbb:disqus I don’t think detailed origin-destination info for the VZ Bridge is publicly available. Overall, however, about six times as many Staten Island car commuters work outside the CBD as inside. The ratio is probably much less stark among VZ Bridge commuters, but I suspect that it’s still significantly tilted toward non-CBD-bound trips.

  • David

    One other (non-original) idea – What about high (crazy high) tolls for single occupancy cars, and much lower rates for HOV. After Sept 11th we banned single occupancy vehicles from entering the city and the world didn’t end. (I forget exactly which crossings this covered but definitely some of the E River ones).

  • jrab

    I point out the relative costs of commuting to Manhattan from The Rock as a demonstration that there are winners and losers with every plan. In order to move from the status quo we as advocates need to come up with a POLICY first, then a PLAN to support the policy. Waving around slides illustrating novel plans just reinforces the notion that the system can be gamed for the benefit of specific groups of constituents.
    For a better example, look at the soft-drink serving-size cap. That PLAN came out because it’s the city’s POLICY to discourage residents from drinking excess amounts of sugary beverages. There have been a number of different PLANS proposed to support this policy, such as a sugar tax, such as a subway ad campaign, and such as the serving-size cap.
    Or, my personal favorite, the window-guards regulation. That imposition on landlords, which requires them to install window guards in any apartment where a child lives, is a PLAN that supports a POLICY to reduce deaths of children from falling out of windows.
    If the city’s POLICY is indeed to limit motor vehicle traffic in Manhattan, then where are the limits on government vehicle parking in lower Manhattan? Where are the signs along arterials suggesting, “Avoid traffic jams, take the subway”? We have Summer Streets for three mornings in August; where are Winter Streets, Autumn Streets, and Spring Streets? Where are the more restrictive parking policies that make it difficult to find free parking on Manhattan roadways?

  • Ian Turner

    @cf7ba48ab923c80f6370beb74def0e8f:disqus : Note that by charging per car, there are already built-in discounts for HOV. Have 3 passengers? Your fare is one-fourth as much per person.

  • Ex-driver

    @85211970d034887d032f8c319f70adbb:disqus Right on.  And it should be no surprise that this kind of toll plan has been successfully framed as a cash grab, because in the absence of a coherent policy, that’s fundamentally what it is. 

  • Joe R.

    @85211970d034887d032f8c319f70adbb:disqus If you’re commuting from SI to Manhattan, it makes infinitely more sense to take the ferry, and then if need be take the subway to your final destination. Taking a car will certainly cost a lot more, even with the existing toll structure. More importantly, 95% of the time it takes longer. What then is the point of driving in if it costs more and takes longer? In fact, for that reason driving into Manhattan during business hours is almost always an illogical decision, and yet a minority of people still insist on doing it. A rational toll structure which gives a financial disincentive for doing something which already makes little sense might finally push this minority to seek other means to get to work. Even though less than 10% of Manhattan workers drive in, they cause an inordinate amount of inconvenience to the 90+% who don’t in terms of congestion/pollution/carnage.

    Oh, I fully agree that since government is seeking to reduce private vehicle usage in Manhattan, it should also reduce governmental vehicle usage by getting rid of parking placards. Let government employees get around by subway or bike or on foot same as everyone else.

  • jrab

    Joe R., my point has nothing to do with what makes sense to the individual commuter, or not.

    In the absence of a government policy to reduce private vehicle usage in Manhattan (and I disagree with you that there is such a policy), any kind of plan to change the status quo will be evaluated by voters and politicians purely on selfish, “what’s-in-it-for-me” reasons. As I pointed out earlier, Staten Island pols and their staff who work in Manhattan will see their toll bill rise quite substantially and thus will be most vocal in their resistance to these changes. If City Hall were in Forest Hills, perhaps this would not be an issue.

  • Matt Campo

    I forwarded this article to State Sen. Andrew Lanza in a letter. Let’s see if he reads it.


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