Affordable Transit

Press Statement Re: Queens BP Opposition

April 27, 2015

Statement by Alex Matthiessen, Move NY Campaign Director Re: Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s Opposition

Coalition asks: Why aren’t local leaders looking out for the 85% of New Yorkers who subsidize the 15% who get a free ride into Manhattan?

Opponents seems to be fighting the ghost of past proposals, not the Move NY Fair Plan, which offers lower tolls and significant new transit options for Queens and other boroughs

The Move NY plan would be a dramatic boon to Queens residents. It’s time leaders like Borough President Katz stop fighting an old plan that is not on the table and accept the fact that the Move NY Fair Plan was designed specifically to benefit Queens drivers and transit riders alike – as well as those of the other four boroughs and the suburbs that make up the 12-county MTA region.

Move NY designed its plan from the beginning to help middle- and lower-income residents of Queens and the other boroughs. The borough president is simply incorrect when she claims otherwise. In fact, if she and the signatories to her letter are concerned about their low and middle income constituents – who are overwhelmingly reliant on mass transit, not cars – then they should get behind the Move NY plan.

In the meantime, the borough president and her colleagues need to explain why the 85% of New Yorkers who pay to travel to and from the Manhattan core should continue to subsidize the 15% who get a free ride on the backs of other New Yorkers.

They also need to explain why they oppose the benefits Queens residents would get under the Move NY plan. Those benefits include:

  • Lower tolls on five of six Queens bridges
  • 45% toll reductions (E-ZPass) on the RFK (Triborough), the Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges
  • 48% toll reductions (E-ZPass) on the Cross Bay and Gil Hodges/Marine Parkway bridges ]
  • Funding for safety and other improvements on the borough’s bridges and roads (with the establishment of a first-time-ever dedicated road and bridge fund starting at $375 million per year citywide)
  • Lower fares for LIRR riders traveling within the city, seven days per week
  • Increased Express and Select Bus Service for neighborhoods without adequate transit and discounted fares on Express Buses (i.e., $6.50 to $5.50 per trip)
  • Expanded ferry service
  • More frequent and less crowded subways for hundreds of thousands of Queens riders

Finally, they need to explain what plan they have instead to address our region’s transportation needs.

It’s important for BP Katz and other skeptics to remember that while the Move NY Fair Plan will help bring badly needed new transit options to Queens and other borough residents, it has a modest effect on the status quo of what people pay to travel around the city. Consider this breakdown regarding how various transportation modes and users will be affected under the Move NY Fair Plan:

  • 65% of all trips by Queens residents are car trips that will pay the same
  • 30% are transit trips (where riders will pay the same or less)
  • 3% are car trips that will pay more
  • 2% are car trips that will pay less

The architect of the Plan, former NYC Traffic Commissioner “Gridlock” Sam Schwarz notes,

“I am truly puzzled why leaders in Queens would not look seriously at a plan that lowers tolls at 5 of 6 bridges saving 400,000 drivers hundreds of dollars/year while reintroducing tolls at just one bridge — The Queensboro Bridge which was built with tolls. Queens is a big winner with the Move NY plan as the streets would become safer, transit would be improved, and there would finally be a dedicated fund to repair Queens roads and bridges. To me it’s akin to Seinfeld’s soup man saying “No toll relief for you!” to the 400,000 people who use the Throgs Neck Bridge, Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, Triborough Bridge, Cross Bay Bridge and Gil Hodges Bridge.”

The Move NY Fair Plan is markedly different from earlier tolling and traffic busting proposals, which did not adequately address the needs of Queens and other non-Manhattan residents, most especially those of drivers. That’s why the leading organizations representing the state’s motorists and truckers—AAA-NY and the New York State Motor Truck Association— support the Move NY plan.

We accomplish that goal by (a) generating the revenue needed to improve our city’s transit system, which is what the vast majority of New York’s lower- and middle-income residents rely on; (b) prioritizing investments in providing transit options for underserved communities; (c) dramatically lowering tolls on the outer MTA bridges that serve many middle-class and poorer neighborhoods; 
(d) providing targeted fare relief for communities not served by subways; and (e) providing a new source of revenue that will put downward pressure on future toll and fare increases.

It’s time for BP Katz and other naysayers to either put forward their own plan for fully funding the City’s outmoded transportation infrastructure or to stand aside and let their colleagues in government take the lead in solving the region’s transportation crisis. Move NY has spent nearly five years consulting with stakeholders and elected officials around the region and has developed as close to a consensus-based plan as possible around a solution that is expressly designed around the notion that everyone contributes and everyone gets their fair share in return.

The Move NY Fair Plan has been endorsed by State and City elected officials throughout the New York metropolitan region, including former opponents of toll reform from the Queens delegation such as City Council Member Mark Weprin and State Senator Jose Peralta.

Mark Weprin, City Council Member, 23rd District, Queens:

“In addition to reducing traffic and air pollution, the Move New York Fair Plan will result in twice as many Eastern Queens residents saving money as paying more, thanks to combined toll and fare relief features in the proposal,” said Council Member Mark Weprin.

Jose Peralta, State Senator, 13th District, Queens:

“As a member of the State Senate who has jurisdiction over this matter, I welcome all suggestions including the ones from those who don’t support this plan, but I will reach out to all my state colleagues who signed the letter and work with them on their concerns. I highly encourage Queens residents and all New Yorkers to review the details of the Move NY Plan and the many benefits it would provide for our City. For far too long, tolls on some bridges have grown year after year, while others have seen dwindling maintenance at the cost of a free ride. Under the Move NY Plan, there is greater equity in the costs borne by commuters, as well as a very real chance to improve our transportation infrastructure and reduce traffic for years to come.”

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