For immediate release:
Thursday, April 30, 2015
For more information, contact:
Bart Robbett, 203-571-8502, email@example.com
Statement of Alex Matthiessen, Campaign Director
April 30, 2015
Borough President Katz and her colleagues are fighting the ghosts of past toll proposals – while ignoring the real benefits of the Move NY Fair Plan.
If they get their way, they’ll condemn their Queens constituents and the rest of the region’s drivers and transit riders to another decade or more of crowded and delayed subway and bus service, lousy roads, transit deserts and skyrocketing tolls and transit fares.
As discussed at the MTA board meeting on Monday, it’s clear that if Albany doesn’t come up with new revenue to fund the capital investment in our region’s transit system, the MTA will have little choice but to hike tolls and fares on those who are already paying a lot. According to a report issued by NY Comptroller DiNapoli’s office last fall, the MTA would have to increase tolls and fares by 15% over and above the recent increases we’ve seen in order to cover the $15 billion gap they face.
The other alternative? The MTA will be forced to slash service, cut back on maintenance and halt the expansion projects that are critical to the region’s economy and future growth.
The status quo in Queens – high tolls on five of their six bridges, poorly maintained roads and far too many neighborhoods with limited transit access – is not acceptable. And yet, Katz & Co. apparently believe it is. With no alternative plan offered by Katz & Co., Queens residents will continue to get the shaft.
That’s why Move NY is pleased to have strong support from other Queens elected officials, including New York State Senator José Peralta and New York City Council Member Mark Weprin. They’ve studied the proposal and thus understand this is a new plan that treats Queens residents fairly while paving the way for a transportation network that is faster, safer, and fairer for all New Yorkers.
Our fact sheet (below) responds directly to the letter sent by Borough President Katz and some of her Queens colleagues.
THE FACTS: Move NY on false assertions in recent letter from BP Katz and other Queens officials
Katz & Co. letter: “The ‘Move NY Fair Plan’ is far from fair and lacks any promise of returns. It is fundamentally unfair to charge residents a fee to travel within one city.”
THE FACTS: Really? Residents already pay tolls (or “fees”) to travel between Queens and other boroughs on the RFK, the Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges and the Midtown Tunnel. They even pay tolls to drive across two bridges from one part of Queens to another. The Move NY Fair Plan would actually lower tolls on five of the six bridges in Queens and make the entire toll system fairer.
Katz & Co.: “It is certainly unfair to the families who live in the transit desert of Queens as it would landlock our Borough.”
THE FACTS: Move NY calls for new service in transit deserts in Queens and around the city – along with lower tolls on key Queens bridges. The Katz solution is to starve the transit system of funding so under-served neighborhoods won’t get new service. (See next question for a list of what Queens would lose if Katz wins the day.)
Katz & Co.: “The ideas in the proposal for mass transit improvements are great. But without any direct connection between the revenues generated from the proposed tolls to those very improvements, there is simply no guarantee that this proposal will actually yield anything tangible or amount to anything more than just that: an interesting idea.”
THE FACTS: The Move NY Fair Plan includes specific investments in new and expanded service that would directly benefit Queens (and other borough) residents. They include:
- restored bus service to some of those cuts made in 2010
- more BRT (bus rapid transit) and SBS (Select Bus Service) routes and service
- more Express Bus routes and service
- $1 off all Express Bus fares (reducing price from current $6.50 to $5.50)
- extending City Ticket (heavily discounted fares for intra-city commuter rail service on LIRR and MNR) to seven days a week.
These aren’t mere ideas: They’re integral to the implementation of the Move NY Fair Plan. They would lower costs and give more options to Queens residents, and will be implemented before any changes in tolling go into effect.
Katz & Co.: “Our city’s mobility and growth depends on more affordable, reliable and efficient mass transit. We recognize it is critical that we find more stable transit funding sources other than from the driving and riding commuters’ pockets to fill deep budget gaps. But we reject the notion that there is only one way to generate additional monies for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and our region’s infrastructure.”
THE FACTS: BP Katz & Co. don’t offer any solutions. If they have them, let’s hear them. What are those other ways? If BP Katz and Co. don’t have a more viable proposal, they should stand aside and let other leaders lead.
Katz & Co.: “Moreover, this proposal is not unlike the many other unfulfilled promises introduced over the years. This one does, however, have an equity deficit for many reasons, including but not limited to:
· The proposal tolls all routes from Queens to Manhattan
THE FACTS: BP Katz wants to preserve a system where some Queens drivers pay through the nose to cross the bridges they use while others pay nothing.
The Move NY Fair Plan ends the real inequity. It reduces tolls on five of six Queens bridges, making the system far fairer, not less equitable.
(And even on the one bridge where tolls would be restored, drivers would pay the full toll ($5.54) only on the lower level (which deposits vehicles below 60th Street). Upper level drivers (who exit at 61st Street) would pay only a lower, discounted toll of $3.04.)
· There is inherent unfairness in the different charges for different residents of different boroughs
THE FACTS: What is inherently unfair is the current system where most of the region’s commuters (i.e., those using the outer bridges, commuter rail, subways and buses) are effectively subsidizing those drivers who are paying nothing to use the city’s infrastructure and thus not contributing to its maintenance, like the rest of us.
· The proposal doesn’t guarantee that any of the funds collected will be spent toward bettering transportation access for Queens’ residents.
THE FACTS: Under the Move NY Fair Plan, the money will be safe from Albany raids because toll money goes directly to the MTA (i.e., is not subjected to the Legislature’s appropriations process). Furthermore, the toll money and taxi surcharge proceeds will be lockboxed in a new dedicated Move NY Authority. Finally, legislation will specifically direct the MTA to use some of the Move NY funding to focus on filling transit gaps that still exist in Queens, South Brooklyn, Staten Island and Eastern Bronx. Under the BP’s approach, the only guarantee is that Queens residents will continue to get a lousy deal.