RIVERDALE REBATE! Bronx Drivers Get Free Ride Over Henry Hudson Bridge In Congestion Pricing Carveout

Crossing the Henry Hudson Bridge will be free for Bronx drivers, Assembly Member Jeff Dinowitz announced.

The Henry Hudson Bridge connects Riverdale with Upper Manhattan. Photo: Photo courtesy of MTA Bridges and Tunnels Special Archive
The Henry Hudson Bridge connects Riverdale with Upper Manhattan. Photo: Photo courtesy of MTA Bridges and Tunnels Special Archive

You get a carveout! And you get a carveout! And you get a carveout!

Add Bronx Assembly Member Jeff Dinowitz to the growing list of legislators boasting of squeezing transit riders at the expense of the driving minority.

Car-friendly Dinowitz announced on Twitter on Wednesday that he finally decided to vote for congestion pricing in exchange for a promise that Bronx residents would get free rides across the Henry Hudson Bridge, which currently costs just $2.80 for EZ-Pass holders. The bridge is operated by the MTA, and tolls on the span indirectly fund subway and bus service.

“People feel this very short bridge had a ridiculously large toll,” Dinowitz told the Riverdale Press. “And there are people in Riverdale, in particular, who still remember when it used to cost just 10 cents.”

The free bridge access will mostly benefit Riverdale residents, since the other bridges connecting the Bronx and Manhattan are out of the way and already free. The average income in Riverdale/Fieldstone is $107,457, according to Census data, so it is difficult to argue that Riverdale residents deserve a financial break.

Dinowitz and other pols have been proud to say they extracted toll discounts in exchange for their votes for congestion pricing. Dinowitz went so far as to say he got the rebate “as part of the #congestionpricing deal.”

There may be no end to the demands for carveouts to save drivers money from congestion pricing. The initial budget deal signed earlier this month included an exemption to Central Business District tolls for Manhattan households earning less than $60,000. Then, last week, Rockaway pols announced that they had secured a $2.84 rebate for all Queens residents driving over the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge.

Other members of the entitled driving class are waiting in the wings for more handouts that will undermine transit: Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch has called for toll carveouts for cops. And on Tuesday, Bay Ridge elected officials launched a push for discounts for Brooklynites who cross the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge more than 10 times each month.

All that money comes directly out of the MTA’s coffers — the very coffers congestion pricing aims to fill.

One dollar taken away somewhere is a dollar that we’ve got to make up somewhere else by somebody else,” said Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Nick Sifuentes, a critic of carveouts. “Every time we do this, you’re adding to the amount that congestion pricing has to raise.”

The 2015 Move New York plan proposed toll reductions on all MTA-owned bridges within the city, including the Henry Hudson. But all of the plan’s proposed reductions were squared away to ensure maximum benefits in terms of both revenue and reducing congestion.

“I really think electeds should look back at the well-thought out and well-received Move New York Plan before just carving out deals haphazardly,” said Sam Schwartz, the former city transportation official who designed the plan with advocates. “The turkey carvers must realize that for every turkey wing they remove the cost of the remaining meal parts will shoot up.”

Toll discounts don’t merely rob the MTA of desperately needed funding, they fly in the face of smart transportation planning, which uses tolls to disincentivized driving while also raising money for better transit to even further disincentivize driving.

“Tolls perform two important civic functions: they generate revenue to fund infrastructure maintenance and they discourage driving which causes congestion and pollution,” said Ed Janoff, a former DOT staffer who now works with the independent consultancy Street Plans. “Politicians who seek toll discounts are only looking at it from the perspective of the costs to their driving constituents.”

The Henry Hudson Bridge, meanwhile, remains indefinitely closed to pedestrians and cyclists during ongoing repair work.

Update: After his earlier Tweet, Dinowitz released the following statement:

I understand that there are some transit advocates who may be disappointed with what they perceive as a congestion pricing carveout or a furtherance of incentivizing individual car usage, however I disagree with that characterization. People driving into the CBD will still have to pay the full toll and the best way to get people to stop driving is by making mass transit the clearly superior option. I believe that the commitments I got from the MTA on accessibility and bus service improvements will go a long way towards accomplishing this goal.

  • r

    “People feel this very short bridge had a ridiculously large toll.”

    Wait until Dinowtiz finds out how much it costs his constituents to go just one or two stops on the subway.

  • djx

    I live in Manhattan and sometimes use this bridge to drive to go skiing upstate. Can’t I get some help too? Why T F should I pay a toll? It’s so unfair. Whine whine whine.

  • crazytrainmatt

    Another example where lowering in-city Metro North fares, increasing frequency, and resurrecting westside Penn station access would have been a wiser option.

  • NYCyclist

    Ridiculous in that they’ll be getting free drives over the bridge well before congestion pricing even takes effect!

  • Joe R.

    Exactly what we all feared would happen if we started giving exemptions is happening.

  • Elizabeth F

    Carve, carve, carve. Better would have been Gridlock Sam’s original plan, which would have evened out and rationalized the tolls for everyone.

  • Elizabeth F

    It’s free, because they probably have an unlimited MetroCard.

  • Rider

    Well, so far, these carve-outs are getting us closer to the intentions of the MOVE NY plan. This one, in particular, should shift some car traffic away from the Broadway bridge to the HH Bridge, which can’t be anything but good for Broadway and the cyclists who must use it.

  • Sanjeev Ramchandra

    Bronx residents get a discounted toll on the Henry Hudson Bridge.
    Queens residents get a discounted toll on the Cross Bay Bridge.
    Staten Island residents get a discounted toll on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.

    Does this mean that Brooklyn residents will get a discounted toll on any future tolling at the Brooklyn or Manhattan Bridges?

  • iSkyscraper

    Not only that, but it will in doing so very likely reduce the toll-dodging that exits the HHP at Dyckman, roars up Seaman Ave through residential Inwood (a slow zone, no less), blows through the stop sign at 218th without stopping, and then jams up that dangerous intersection at Broadway en route to Broadway Bridge. The toll-dodgers make that entire route hazardous for pedestrians at rush hours.

    Inwood residents have been pleading with the city for years to do something about the heavy flow of bridge shoppers to no avail. Although this is a pathetic carve-out, it may accidentally do more to improve pedestrian safety than any other.

    https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160502/inwood/girl-scout-troop-fighting-make-inwood-intersection-safer/

  • Sanjeev Ramchandra

    Maybe for Bronx residents but unlikely for suburban commuters who are still subject to the tolls from the Henry Hudson River Bridge.

  • iSkyscraper

    That is true, but I seriously doubt many of those drivers are taking highways south for 20 min, then exiting to do a toll dodge for 20 min, then getting back on the highway for 40 min of traffic to midtown. To save $2.80?

  • Andrew

    …which isn’t free.

  • Andrew

    It makes no sense to charge both the HHB toll and the CBD toll for a single trip from the Bronx into the CBD.

    But it makes even less sense to make exemptions based on residence.

  • AMH

    This is insane. Paying people to drive is the exact opposite of congestion pricing.

  • DoctorMemory

    Since I live on Seaman I obviously agree that this is a problem, but honestly the fix is to toll the broadway bridge. 🙂

  • Jo Jo

    Congestion pricing will not change a thing. Does raising the price of a LIRR ticket stop people from taking the LIRR. No. People that need to drive into the CBD will continue to do it and pay the money. Anyone that drives a car into the CBD in this day and age has money and will pay. So now MTA can get more money to blow on their failing transportation system.

  • jo jo

    Did I mention this already: Let’s make the bikers that ride into the CBD zone pay a congestion pricing fee of $11.25 as well. The bikers are also causing congestion with the introduction of designated bike lanes that are vastly under utilized by cyclists. Maybe the bikers will not cycle in the CBD zone anymore and then they can go back to taking the fantastic MTA NYC subway system and then the city can close down the bike lanes and then the city can do away with UBER, Lyft and yellow/green cabs so everyone will take the great MTA nyc subway system again and alas the MTA will have all the money they need and blow it all on upgrades like they did with the Q Second Ave extension to 96 street that took almost 15 plus years to construct if not more. Great work MTA.

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