2016-03-30 / Editorials

Tolls Still A Bad Idea

It is still early in 2016, yet we are moving quickly toward the end of the budget process for state and city lawmakers. But the idea of putting tolls on our now free East River bridges – also called a “congestion pricing scheme” – keeps coming back to haunt us in Queens, in particular, after many years. The Gazette remains totally opposed to this tax on drivers going into Manhattan, as we have been moved to write such editorials since November 16, 2005.

Some of our current electeds and Move NY activists think that a great way to raise funds to fix our bridges, roads, buses and subways is to make drivers pay to get into Manhattan when crossing the free Ed Koch-Queensboro, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg Bridges. To us, this idea doesn’t work. It would be like making Staten Islanders pay to cross the river to Manhattan whenever they board the S.I. Ferry. It is as unfair as asking people who live in Broad Channel and Rockaway to pay a toll each way whenever they drive off the peninsula to get to work, see a doctor elsewhere in Queens, or get to school, when they have only one subway line, no ferry service, and limited bus service. And that is just driving from Queens to Queens and crossing Jamaica Bay.

We continue to be totally against any East River Toll Plan as an unfair scheme, because these bridges were paid for with our taxes a great many years ago. This funding proposal doesn’t work because our bridge tolls and roads and parking fines are expensive enough right now. This proposal’s return by some state lawmakers and the Move NY advocacy group will only make New York City become the most unfriendly city to drivers who must use their cars rather than public transit: tens of thousands of Queens people who don’t live near public transportation; our seniors and the disabled who cannot navigate mass transit; our small businesses that have to cross these bridges multiple times a day; our working- and middle-class residents going to work or school in Manhattan. They would not be able to survive these tolls as they are already on very strained budgets.

Queens is physically the largest borough, and second most populous after Brooklyn, with 2.3 million people, and transit options continue to leave many areas decidedly underserved. There have been other recent ideas to alleviate the shortage of transit options and improve rush-hour travel time, including the Brooklyn-Queens Connector, Select Bus Service along Woodhaven and Queens Boulevards, reactivating the old 3.5-mile long Rockaway spur of the LIRR, and putting passenger light rail on existing freight car tracks winding through many primarily quiet, residential Queens neighborhoods like Glendale and Middle Village. These ideas are also controversial with many in Queens in varying degrees.

We arguably have the most car commuters in Queens, and this latest call for hitting the wallets of our over-taxed and fined drivers is not going to help Queens remain as the top travel destination, nor be inviting for anyone to move here and start a business.

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