Our Views: Don’t waste city’s subway crisis

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If this summer has reminded residents of Long Island anything it is the impact that transportation by road and by rails has our lives and our economy.

Long Island commuters faced massive delays, frustration and aggravation early this summer thanks to Amtrak’s incompetent management of Penn Station.

As service was reduced to make repairs, Gov. Cuomo aptly named this “the summer of hell.”

And then the delays spread to New York City’s subway system, which has suffered similar problems of poor maintenance and crumbling infrastructure.

Add to this mixture, Manhattan’s congested streets and you have a reality of no good options for those entering New York City to work or play.

This raises two questions after the emergency repairs are made — what to do and how to pay for it.

An editorial in the New York Times suggested a return to the commuter tax on the 811,000 suburbanites who make their living in the city. The editorial argued that these commuters “may reasonably be expected to contribute a little to help keep it running.”
In addition to the issue of what to do with New York City residents who work on Long Island, the proposal has a second problem — few other than the editorial writer think it’s a good idea. Certainly no elected officials.

A second proposal comes from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. He has proposed a tax on the wealthiest residents of New York City to raise $700 million a year to help generate revenue for the city’s ailing and overcrowded transit  system.

“I think the fact that there is a subway crisis, it’s affecting everyone, including suburban residents,” de Blasio said. “But we’re saying we’re only asking that New York City residents who are wealthy pay the tax. I think that’s a sweet spot.”

The state Legislature shot down de Blasio when he made the same proposal for a so-called millionaire’s tax to finance his program to provide universal.

But the mayor thinks this time will be different.

Others disagree, saying the plan would face long odds in the Legislature, especially in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Cuomo is now planning to propose a third option — congestion pricing.

Like in Goldilocks, congestion pricing is neither too hot or too cold. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

Congestion pricing offers the opportunity to revive the ailing subways, relieve mind-numbing traffic, rebuild crumbling roadway and reducing dangerous pollution.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered a congrestion plan a decade ago in which drivers would be charged $8 to enter the most congested parts of Manhattan during peak commuting hours.

Cuomo declined to provide specifics about how the plan would work.

But Move NY recently unveiled a congestion pricing plan that they say would yield $1.47 billion in annual revenue.

Under the plan, drivers would pay a toll of $5.54 in each direction at four bridges that cross the East River into Manhattan — the Ed Koch Queensboro, the Brooklyn, the Manhattan and the Williamsburg.  None of the four currently require a toll. There is little sense why those bridge crossings are free while people traveling by train or over other bridges must pay. There is even less sense now that technology has eliminated the necessity of installing toll booths to collect the money.

In Manhattan, drivers crossing 60th Street northbound or southbound would also be charged a $5.54 toll, including along the West Side Highway and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive.

At the same time, the plan would reduce other tolls by as much as 48 percent at other crossings, including the Cross Bay-Veterans’ Memorial in Queens; the Henry Hudson, linking the Bronx and Manhattan; and the Throgs Neck, between the Bronx and Queens.

This is another long overdue change. There has never been much sense to charge drivers crossing from the Bronx into Queens, and vice versa, on the Throgs Neck Bridge while traveling between Brooklyn and Manhattan on the Manhattan, Brooklyn and Williamburg bridges was free as well as the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, crossing between Manhattan and Queens.

MoveNY proposes that $1.1 billion of the $1.47 billion in annual revenue be directed to public transit and the rest to the city’s bridges and road.

Bloomburg’s plan for congestion pricing was defeated a decade ago in part because of stiff opposition from elected officials from Queens and Brooklyn, as well as suburban places like Nassau County.

But Cuomo believes this time could be different.

“There is an awareness of the need to make a basic policy shift,” Cuomo said.

The city’s subways are in crisis, its roadways are congested.

Perhaps, this could be turned into a good thing.

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