Schwartz has been making the rounds lately with the latest plan for tolling the East River bridges. I've long argued that something along these lines is necessary, for reasons that I laid out in detail in an recent blog post. In addition, his plan would deal with the very specific problem of the tolls on the Verrazano and Manhattan Bridges, which offer truck driver going from Brooklyn to New Jersey the perverse choice between paying $70 to travel on the Gowanus and Staten Island Expressways or pounding the streets and tourists of Lower Manhattan for free.
Schwartz's plan, similar to the one put out a few years ago by Charlie Komanoff on a commission from Ted Kheel, would also reinstitute tolls on the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Queensboro bridges, and implement a "screenline" toll to drive across 60th Street in Manhattan. The toll would be five dollars. Instead of the massive increases in bus and subway service promised by Bloomberg and Ravitch, it would provide relatively little:
- Reduce bus fares by $1 in neighborhoods with no subways
- No service reductions on local buses for three years without Community Board approval
- Consider restoring some local bus service discontinued in 2010
Why the huge reduction? Schwartz tries to build support by offering "something for the drivers too." Komanoff and Kheel proposed to raise tolls on the Whitestone, Throgs Neck, Marine Parkway, Cross Bay Veterans and Henry Hudson bridges. Schwartz goes the opposite direction and proposes that instead of using the toll money for transit, as is done with the current tolls on the MTA bridges and tunnels, and as Bloomberg and Ravitch proposed, he would use some of the money to widen the Belt Parkway to Interstate standards and allowing truck traffic on it. He also proposes to widen the Staten Island Expressway, and the Van Wyck Expressway near Kennedy Airport, where it gets most congested.
Charlie Komanoff likes the plan: he gushed in Streetsblog about how it "feels inclusive" and "feels egalitarian."
I'm a lot more skeptical. Sam Schwartz has contributed to the discussion with this plan, but I hope it doesn't end with this plan being adopted. To me it doesn't actually feel inclusive or egalitarian anywhere below the surface. It doesn't fit well with my own goals, particularly with expanding the constituency for transit beyond the core of the city. There are a number of other things that bother me. I'll go into them in detail soon. In the meantime, feel free to share your own concerns in the comments.