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

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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.

Quinnipiac poll results released this morning again show that public resistance to a toll swap as envisioned in the Move NY plan (higher tolls on East River bridges, lower ones on outlying MTA crossings) is not nearly as deep as Cuomo makes it out to be. The survey of 1,108 NYC voters found 44 support Move NY-style toll reform to fund transit, while 49 percent oppose, replicating the findings of a poll this May.

Two weeks ago, the same governor who wrangled marriage equality through Albany told a Syracuse-based radio station that he is “dubious” about the political prospects of Move NY. “The outer boroughs were very opposed to this plan last time,” Cuomo said. “I don’t think there’s been a change of heart.”

In fact, the Q Poll reveals the absence of stiff opposition to Move NY in every borough. In Staten Island, there’s even a 61 percent majority in favor of the plan. Only in Brooklyn does opposition to the plan exceed support by more than 10 points, 52 to 41 percent.

These are numbers that a politician who wants to take on the big, systemic problems plaguing NYC’s streets and transportation system could work with, especially since we know that public opinion of road pricing improves after implementation. Sure, getting New York’s state legislators in line won’t be automatic. But let’s not pretend the greatest political obstacle to road pricing is the “outer boroughs” when it’s Cuomo himself.

The new Q Poll is a great hook for one of Streetsblog’s favorite graphics: Public support for road pricing initiatives increases after implementation. Graph: FHWA/CURACAO

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