Sep 252012

New York City’s most accomplish traffic planner is pushing for an overhaul of the region’s toll system. Will politicians opposed to a toll increase on the Verrazano Bridge take notice? (Source: Sam Schwartz via

The MTA is considering a toll increase on the Verrazano Bridge, and area politicians like State Senator Marty Golden and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis say they’re not going to take it anymore.

And they’re right to say that the MTA treats drivers in Bay Ridge and Staten Island as a piggy bank to make up all of its budget gaps, but they stop short of offering any solutions of their own.

Enter “Gridlock Sam” Schwartz and his Fair Plan – a complete overhaul of the region’s toll system.

The defining characteristic of the Fair Plan is that drivers pay more to go to and from Manhattan – where economic activity is strongest and mass transit options are most plentiful – while paying substantially less at outer crossings like the Verrazano than they do now.

The tolls have gone up twice since this 2007 slide was issued, but you get the point – there’s no consistent reasoning applied to the areas tolls today. (Source: Sam Schwartz via

Under the Fair Plan:

  • $5 E-ZPass toll charged each direction on all East River crossings (or $7 if paid in cash). This includes bridges that are currently free.
  • $4.60 E-ZPass toll charged on the Verrazano Bridge – a $5 reduction for Brooklyn residents, and a slight reduction for Staten Island residents. (The cash toll would go down from $13 to $8.)
  • Other outer crossing like the Triboro/RFK, Gil Hodges, and Cross Bay bridges would see similar reductions.
  • Bicycles would be charged 50 cents on East River crossings.
  • Truck tolls are restructured to give traffic that doesn’t need to go through Manhattan more incentive to use an outer crossing
  • Miscellaneous improvements to the highway infrastructure, most notably a widening of the Belt Parkway and making it accessible to commercial traffic.

This is considerably different from the current system. Several bridges to Manhattan are free to drive across, despite the multitude of mass transit options. (As a double insult, drivers share the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges with subway riders that are charged $2.25 for the privilege of crossing the East River the same way.) The Verrazano Bridge, on the other hand, has the highest toll in the region and is only served by a small number of bus routes.