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"Gridlock" Sam Schwartz

Tuesday’s Headlines: No More Toll-Shopping Edition

12:04 AM EST on November 10, 2020

Put a bike lane on it.

The MTA announced that two-way tolling will finally return to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge on Dec. 1, ending the phenomenon of toll-shopping that has existed for decades. The Daily News, the Post, and amNY (focusing on emissions) covered it, but we wanted to go deeper, so we got "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz on the horn (which is now Apple Mail) to tell us just how significant two-way tolling would be.

Go, Sam, go!

When one-way tolling was first proposed by Staten Island Rep. Guy Molinari in the mid-1980s, I was at NYC DOT, and we opposed it on several grounds: the feds should not be deciding traffic patterns in NYC, and, secondly, one-way tolling would add traffic especially trucks to lower Manhattan. We were proven right, as you will read on.

Nonetheless, in 1986 the tolls were removed from the Brooklyn-bound lanes and the toll was doubled Staten Island-bound. So a driver from, say, the area of the [current] Barclays Center to Newark Airport had two choices: he could use highways most of the way by taking the BQE/Gowanus to the Verrazzano Bridge to the Staten Island Expressway to the Goethals Bridge or take Flatbush Avenue across the Manhattan Bridge onto Canal Street and out the Holland Tunnel. The highway alternative is tolled while taking city streets is "free."

sam schwartz one-way tolling graphic
Graphic: Sam Schwartz

As you can see in the graphic I made, truckers could save $92 (or more if they’re bigger) by taking Canal Street (many pedestrian fatalities have been recorded, often trucks involved) than taking the Gowanus/VZ Bridge. Over 9,000 more drivers daily take the VZ bridge to Brooklyn than Staten Island demonstrating this skew. Most end up on streets like Canal, Delancey, Broome and other lower Manhattan streets as well as some spillover to Midtown as those streets and the Holland Tunnel fill up.

I need not tell you using highways over streets means fewer crashes (no peds and bikes killed), less pollution near where people walk and live and less energy used per mile, ergo less GHGs.

As we say in the business, glad we asked! So three cheers for the end of one-way tolling on the Verrazzano Bridge!

In other news:

    • What a day for NY Times star reporter Maggie Haberman! Remember how on Sunday, her own paper threw her under the bus by praising her diligence in the most heinous way — "she texts while she drives..." Well after we and others called out Haberman for the egregious offense, shit got so real that the Trump whisperer was forced to issue an apology after one reader threatened to cancel his subscription:

Glad that's over with (not!)

    • The Daily News had full team coverage — five reporters! — on the car crash on Sunday that left a woman with a severed leg. Wouldn't it be great if New York's Hometown Paper could devote such resources to the ongoing, daily public health crisis of cars in our city rather than just doing the tabloid "hearts and flowers" treatment after random crashes because they get good art?
    • The News also had more details on the cement truck driver who killed Jessica Vollman in Bushwick, yet, again, not a word about how that one little neighborhood is home to more than six crashes every single day.
    • Meanwhile, amNY showed how it's done, with one reporter focusing on a single phenomenon: the rise in injuries and road deaths in The Bronx.
    • We broke it — the story about the NYPD sealing off streets for no apparent reason — but the Post fixed it, adding in a bit more from the tight-lipped department.
    • Another cop was collared for drunk driving (NY Post), but a different drunk driver hit two motorcycle passengers, seriously injuring them (NY Post).
    • Anyone got a really tiny violin? The Post found car owners to whine about not being able to find a free spot to store their private property in the public right of way. (Whatever you do, Rupert, don't show those drivers Streetfilms' latest classic!)
    • And, finally, Max Sholl likes the new Southern Boulevard protected bike lane. (Here we go!):

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