Who's Protecting Whose Wallet?
March 6th, 2009

Three Democratic state senators who have blocked the plan to charge tolls on the East River bridges and so prevent transit service cuts and fare hikes say they simply want to protect their constituents.

But which constituents?

Last year, in the midst of the congestion pricing debate, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and the Pratt Center for Community Development took a legislative district by district look at where people work and how they get there. This data does not directly translate to the toll debate, since the tolls would affect anyone who crosses a now-free bridge to Manhattan while the congestion pricing proposal, in its final incarnation, only charges drivers south of 60th Street.

It provides some indication, nonetheless, and makes the stands of Sens. Ruben Diaz, Pedro Espada and Carl Kruger somewhat baffling.

Most of Kruger’s constituents do have a car but do not use it for a daily drive to Manhattan’s central business district. Of the 32 percent of his constituents who commute to that part of Manhttan, about 84 percent take mass transit.

In Diaz’s Bronx district more than five times as many people take mass transit to the business district as drive. Two thirds of his constituents do not even own a car. In Espada’s adjacent Bronx district, more than 70 percent of residents do not have a car and less than 4 percent drive to the central business district as compared with 29 percent who take mass transit.

“Taxi drivers have to pay, too, and they will have to increase their fares. Who is gonna pay for that? The people,” Diaz told Gotham Gazette. Or at least all those residents of the South Bronx who take cabs to work every day.

The three say they could back a payroll tax, another part of the rescue plan offered by Richard Ravitch. Mostly, though, they seem to think the MTA should be able to come up with the money from what’s hidden in the agency’s MTA’s books. The plan to rescue the MTA, Kruger said, “depends upon us to sympathize with an organization that has less than zero credibility and a legacy of deceiving the public.”

The impasse among the Democrats leaves the decision on the tolls up to the Republicans, particularly the three GOP state senators from the city, the Times reports. In the meantime, the South Bronx restaurant worker and the medical tech from Mill Basin can rest easy knowing that, if subway fares rise, thy can always take a taxi to work.

(For more on the fight over bridge tolls, see Gotham Gazette’s “Plan to Toll Bridges Encounters More Roadblocks.”)

By on March 6, 2009, 12:29 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Gotham City,Public Finance,Transportation | Comments Off on Who's Protecting Whose Wallet?

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