More Than Half of New Yorkers Want a Toll Swap, Survey Says

By Catherine Yang, Epoch Times
December 16, 2014 5:34 pm Last Updated: December 16, 2014 5:34 pm

NEW YORK—Support is growing for a fair tolling plan as New Yorkers become increasingly concerned about infrastructure funding.

According to a survey conducted by Move NY and Transit Center of 1,003 voters from 12 counties, New Yorkers support a toll swap 55–40 percent. Concerns about congestion and the state of roadways have increased, along with support for toll swaps, since a Quinnipiac University Poll on the issue this summer.

The participants responded favorably 45–31 percent to the idea of adding tolls to free bridges while lowering existing tolls, and the support grew to 62–31 percent as the survey participants were given more details of the plan.

After surveyors presented criticisms of the swap plan, the margin went down but New Yorkers still supported the plan 55–40 percent.

Infrastructure

Four of the East River Bridges are currently free, and have been for about a century. Previous proposals to toll the bridges have been shot down.

Move NY’s plan reduces tolls on other bridges in turn and that has helped it gain support.

The plan would raise $1.44 billion annually, and $1.1 billion would go towards the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Given that the MTA currently has a $15 billion funding gap for its five-year capital plan, Move NY Campaign Director Alex Matthiessen said the group’s top priority is to push the plan in order to help fill that gap.

Congestion pricing of some form is inevitable, Matthiessen said, because infrastructure needs will only go up. If the MTA does not identify new sources of funding and instead relies on issuing more debt, New Yorkers will face more and more toll and fare hikes in the future.

“I think our plan is the antidote to constant raising of fares and tolls,” Matthiessen said.

Several reports released this year call on various levels of government to invest more in New York’s infrastructure.

A national transportation group, TRIP, rated 74 percent of the city’s roads as poor or mediocre, meaning there were signs of rutting, cracks, potholes, and/or extensive distress.

New Yorkers wait in traffic as they head into Manhattan, N.Y., from Brooklyn, N.Y., on Nov. 1, 2012. Support is growing for a fair tolling plan as New Yorkers become increasingly concerned about infrastructure funding. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
New Yorkers wait in traffic as they head into Manhattan, N.Y., from Brooklyn, N.Y., on Nov. 1, 2012. Support is growing for a fair tolling plan as New Yorkers become increasingly concerned about infrastructure funding. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

According to a Center for an Urban Future report, over 160 bridges are more than a century old, and as of last year state engineers deemed 47 as prone to failure but they still carry 2.7 million cars each day.

Over a third of subway signals have exceeded their 50-year lifespans, slowing the movement of trains.

Building Support

Move NY formed in 2010 to tackle transportation issues, and in 2012 the organization and former traffic commissioner Sam “Gridlock” Schwartz joined together to unveil a fair tolling plan.

In the past year, Move NY has been meeting with groups all over the city, and the suburbs, to build support for the plan. Congestion pricing is not a new idea in New York, so they started with the groups who opposed previous plans first.

Earlier this year, the tweaked plan gained support from representatives in the outer boroughs, Long Island, the trucking industry, and the American Automobile Association’s New York branch.

Matthiessen said a consistent response has been that survey respondents and groups they talk to really believe the plan can deliver the benefits it promises. By bonding the revenue so that it can only be used for transportation purposes, voters said they thought it would result it better roadway conditions, reduce congestion, and improve subway performance.

Based on the survey results, the final plan will include more express bus service and possibly varying the tolls by time of day, Matthiessen said.

The final draft will be released in January 2015, and the group will lobby for its implementation.