HEAD-SCRATCHER OF THE WEEK: Staten Island Pol Attacks ‘Unfair’ Punishment of Bridge Toll Scofflaws

Fact check: The fines for evading a subway fare or bridge toll are identical.

The image from a since-deleted Senate Democrats tweet promoting Diane Savino's incorrect comments.
The image from a since-deleted Senate Democrats tweet promoting Diane Savino's incorrect comments.

State Senator Diane Savino chose a weird way of sticking up for drivers this week — wrongly claiming that motorists who skip out on bridge tolls are punished more severely than people who jump a subway turnstile.

The comment at Wednesday’sTransportation Committee hearing in Albany was initially heralded by the Senate Democrats’ Twitter account — until someone realized it was so bone-headed that it was deleted.

But here it is in all its beauty: “It is wildly unfair that if you jump the turnstile, you don’t have to pay the fare, but if you don’t have enough money on your EZ-Pass because you haven’t gotten paid yet, you are fined,” Savino told MTA officials.

Fact check: The fines are the same: $100. And unlike bridge toll violators, who are billed by mail and can wait up to 30 days to pay the fee, turnstile jumpers often end up in jail by the thousands, according to a 2018 report from the Community Service Society.

Fare evasion is on the public agenda thanks to a report the MTA released late last year attributing part of its operating deficit — about $20 million per month, it claims — to an increase in turnstile-jumping. In delivering the report, agency officials suggested that there was a correlation between the alleged increase in fare evasion and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s decision to stop prosecuting it as a criminal offense.

But Vance’s decision did not require transit police to stop enforcing fare evasion. It simply brought the penalties in line with skipping a bridge toll. After a dip in civil summonses over the summer, the NYPD has upped its fare enforcement in recent months, officials told board members last month.

Savino’s confusion about bridge tolls is part of a larger battle for congestion pricing that Gov. Cuomo can only win if he convinces dozens of recalcitrant lawmakers to get on board — which is definitely not a sure thing, judging from lall the skepticism voiced by pols at Wednesday’s heading. Despite her comment, Savino has supported congestion pricing in the form of the Move New York plan, which proposed to toll the four East River Bridges in exchange for toll reductions on the outer-borough bridges, including the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, which connects Staten Island and Brooklyn.

On Wednesday, she told MTA officials that she preferred the Move New York plan to the one being floated by the governor.

Her office did not respond to Streetsblog’s request for comment.

  • Larry Littlefield

    She’s not confused. She’s terrible. Here is her way of being “pro-transit.”


    “This legislation, introduced by Assemblyman Peter Abbate and Senator Diane Savino, both great supporters of labor, corrects an inequity to members who originally opted into 55/25 pension plan and paid an additional pension contribution from the time they opted in until the beginning of 2001.”

    Managers had been promised a big pension at age 62 after working 30 years. Nice deal right? They then got the legislature to approve a retirement at age 55 after 25 years of work, a big pension for one year for each year they worked. But they had to kick in a few extra bucks for it. “We paid for it!”

    Then Savino and the legislature quietly gave them back all that money, with interest in excess of market rates, taking the money out of the underfunded NYC pension fund. Even as new hired had their pension benefits slashed and their contribution jacked up.

    It’s the whole Generation Greed, screw the newbie flee to Florida, leave NYC in ruins thing. No conversation with or about her should omit this deal. And the 1,000 others like it.

  • Reader

    Is there a group in NYC that feels as victimized as motorists despite all the efforts the city (and state) make to placate them on a daily basis? Doubtful.

  • AnoNYC

    Talk about misinformed. How embarrassing.

  • William Lawson

    Living proof that head-in-the-sand stupidity is non-partisan.

  • William Lawson

    I’m convinced that 95 percent of the shit we put up from the government of this city (& state) is down to shitty public servants at every level whose only goal in life is to do as little as possible for their paychecks before retiring to Florida in their 50’s. I mean it’s nice that they deport themselves from the city like that, but it’s a shame that they get to do so much damage while they’re here.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “It’s nice that they deport themselves from the city like that.”

    Most of those kinds of public employees live in the suburbs before retiring to Florida. Combine the effects of the political/union class with those of the executive/financial class, and add generational inequity, and no wonder things keep getting tougher for the serfs.

    They’ve killed public service. The Democrats, kowtowing to unions representing the worst of their members, make sure you don’t have to do your job, and the Republicans, gutting public services for tax cuts, create a situation where you don’t want to. I’m glad I got paroled.

  • Gowanus Kings

    Here’s a video essay on the subject: https://www.trafficcalmer.com/blog/2019/1/22/fare-evasion.

  • helloandyhihi

    Gee whiz Streetsblog, that photo sure is blurry.


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