Friday, February 27, 2009

The Bell Tolls For Free East Side Bridges?

Yesterday brought sad news for many a Queens and Brooklyn resident. Lower Manhattanite and Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver endorsed a form of the Ravitch Plan so that all bridges leading into New York City will be tolled. The idea has been repulsed for decades by many local politicians, but Silver's statement yesterday could quite possibly be the final battle in this debate.

From PolitickerNY:

ALBANY—Praise is flowing in for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has softened his opposition to implementing East River bridge tolls to raise money to plug the M.T.A.'s massive deficit.

Silver just told me as he left the building for the day, "Either you're for a fare increase and a substantial reduction in services, or you provide the revenue to the M.T.A."

"I'm not happy about it, but given the choice of the two, I think the conference would support the revenue enhancers over the fare increase," he said, noting that would include a bridge toll about the cost of a single subway ride. "We believe everybody should pay."

It has always been a losing proposition for a politician to come out in favor of tolling the Manhattan, Williamsburg and Brooklyn Bridges but in these times there really is no other choice. Opponents say that once the bridges are tolled, it is only a matter of time that a small $2 toll will be at the same price as the GWB or the Lincoln tunnel. I agree with that sentiment, but in these times we all need to pull together. Cutting service and spiking the cost of a Metrocard would be ridiculously unfair to straphangers. We have subways for a reason, so please, use them.

With that hurdle out of the way, the Ravitch Plan goes to the State Senate before the Governor's desk. Whether they will approve of bridge tolls is still up for debate, but they must know we have to do something to stop a rapid rise in the price to ride the subway.