Q Poll: Move NY’s Toll Swap Jacks Up Public Support for Road Pricing

via Quinnipiac
via Quinnipiac

A new poll released by Quinnipiac today reveals how much New Yorkers warm to the idea of tolling the East River bridges when the policy is paired with lower tolls on outlying crossings. A lot: Support for putting a price on the free bridges rises from 27 percent to 44 percent if accompanied by toll reductions and using the revenue “for mass transit.”

Citywide, the poll of 969 NYC voters (margin of error: 3.2 percent) found opposition to the Move NY-esque toll swap idea below an absolute majority, but at 49 percent, it had a slight plurality.

In the Bronx and Manhattan, pluralities do support toll reform, and in Staten Island it enjoys a solid 61 percent majority. Most voters in Brooklyn and Queens were opposed, but only in Brooklyn did the margin of opposition reach double digit percentage points. The results are broadly similar to recent polling conducted by Move NY.

Pricing the East River bridges out-polled raising the city sales tax as a means to pay for transportation infrastructure, 24 to 13 percent. Raising the gas tax statewide was, not surprisingly, more popular with city voters, though not by much, with 29 percent choosing that option. That question didn’t mention reducing outlying tolls, so it probably underestimates where toll reform stands relative to the other options.

Also notable, the toll swap is supported by 52 percent of independent voters but opposed by 52 percent of both Democrats and Republicans. In practice, it’s Democratic voters who determine the city’s representation in Albany and City Hall.

Surveying New Yorkers about tolls, traffic, and transit is tricky, with the numbers swinging dramatically based on turns of phrase. Q polls of congestion pricing in 2008 found support in the range of 60 percent when the question said revenue would be used “to improve mass transit in and around New York City,” but that fell to about 40 percent when pollsters described the idea only in terms of “charging vehicle owners.”

So what do the numbers tell us? Broadly speaking, the New York City electorate remains receptive to the idea of road pricing to fund transit — more receptive than residents of Stockholm and London before those two cities implemented congestion pricing. And maybe some more electeds in the Bronx and Staten Island should join the coalition supporting Move NY.

We know from the experience of other cities that once a pricing plan goes live and people can see the benefits, support grows. There’s no wall of public opposition holding back the Move New York plan, just political timidity.

Public support for road pricing initiatives increases after implementation. Graph: FHWA/CURACAO
  • J

    Also worth mentioning is that a whopping 63% (a 2:1 margin) of people aged 18-34 support the tool swap idea. Like gay marriage, this seems inevitable.

  • Interesting that of all the sub-groups, the one most opposed to Move NY is Brooklyn. The plan really doesn’t have much for drivers into Manhattan from Brooklyn other than vague promises of reduced traffic. I’m not sure how the plan can be modified to address this, but perhaps it should be given some thought.

  • AnoNYC

    This is inevitable.

    Think about this.

    Road capacity is not going to change. What you see is what we have available. At the same time there has been increased development in areas of the city which are not as close to rapid transit as in the past. Additionally there is development occurring outside this city.

    This means more traffic is inevitable without any policy changes.

    However, more traffic with no new increased capacity means worse commutes. Without Move NY, automotive traffic in NYC is only going to get worse. I should also add that more and more street space is going to be allocated towards other purposes (nonautomotive).

    Either we enact the Move NY plan and reduce traffic in the core somewhat whole increasing mass transportation capacity or automotive trips will reach a standstill.

  • AnoNYC

    If we see traffic reductions near the East River Bridges space can then be allocated to other purposes. Also public health, economic, and environmental improvements in areas that have reduced congestion.

    Of course, the average New Yorker is too shortsighted to realize this and/or too selfish to care.

  • AnoNYC

    It’s even more inevitable because the alternative is worse and worse traffic.

  • Tyson White

    I have an idea: Move 10 of the most douchey velvet-rope clubs in Manhattan to Brooklyn. You won’t hear from them anymore.


Public Support for NYC Toll Reform Highest in the Suburbs

Since March, Move New York has made the case that its traffic reduction and transit funding plan can succeed in Albany. Proposing to raise car tolls in the transit-rich but congested Manhattan core while lowering them in more distant, car-dependent parts of town, Move NY seeks to avoid the political pitfalls that have sunk road […]

The Politics of Road Pricing: Andrew Cuomo vs. Actual Polls

Andrew Cuomo styles himself as a guy who gets stuff done. That’s what muscling through the Tappan Zee Bridge double-span boondoggle and the multi-billion dollar LaGuardia renovation is all about. But when reporters ask Cuomo about funding transit by putting a price on NYC’s free bridges, he likes to portray himself as a helpless bystander, stymied by politics. […]