RIVERDALE REBATE! Bronx Drivers Get Free Ride Over Henry Hudson Bridge In Congestion Pricing Carveout – Streetsblog New York City
Add Bronx Assembly Member Jeff Dinowitz to the growing list of legislators boasting of squeezing transit riders at the expense of the driving minority.
Car-friendly Dinowitz announced on Twitter on Wednesday that he finally decided to vote for congestion pricing in exchange for a promise that Bronx residents would get free rides across the Henry Hudson Bridge, which currently costs just $2.80 for EZ-Pass holders. The bridge is operated by the MTA, and tolls on the span indirectly fund subway and bus service.
“People feel this very short bridge had a ridiculously large toll,” Dinowitz told the Riverdale Press. “And there are people in Riverdale, in particular, who still remember when it used to cost just 10 cents.”
I am proud to announce that as part of the #congestionpricing deal, I was able to secure a full rebate for the Henry Hudson Bridge toll for all Bronx residents (via EZ-Pass) starting next year.https://t.co/FxMYjk6veP
— Jeffrey Dinowitz (@JeffreyDinowitz) April 17, 2019
The free bridge access will mostly benefit Riverdale residents, since the other bridges connecting the Bronx and Manhattan are out of the way and already free. The average income in Riverdale/Fieldstone is $107,457, according to Census data, so it is difficult to argue that Riverdale residents deserve a financial break.
Dinowitz and other pols have been proud to say they extracted toll discounts in exchange for their votes for congestion pricing. Dinowitz went so far as to say he got the rebate “as part of the #congestionpricing deal.”
There may be no end to the demands for carveouts to save drivers money from congestion pricing. The initial budget deal signed earlier this month included an exemption to Central Business District tolls for Manhattan households earning less than $60,000. Then, last week, Rockaway pols announced that they had secured a $2.84 rebate for all Queens residents driving over the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge.
Other members of the entitled driving class are waiting in the wings for more handouts that will undermine transit: Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch has called for toll carveouts for cops. And on Tuesday, Bay Ridge elected officials launched a push for discounts for Brooklynites who cross the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge more than 10 times each month.
All that money comes directly out of the MTA’s coffers — the very coffers congestion pricing aims to fill.
“One dollar taken away somewhere is a dollar that we’ve got to make up somewhere else by somebody else,” said Tri-State Transportation Campaign Executive Nick Sifuentes, a critic of carveouts. “Every time we do this, you’re adding to the amount that congestion pricing has to raise.”
Toll discounts don’t merely rob the MTA of desperately needed funding, they fly in the face of smart transportation planning, which uses tolls to disincentivized driving while also raising money for better transit to even further disincentivize driving.
“Tolls perform two important civic functions: they generate revenue to fund infrastructure maintenance and they discourage driving which causes congestion and pollution,” said Ed Janoff, a former DOT staffer who now works with the independent consultancy Street Plans. “Politicians who seek toll discounts are only looking at it from the perspective of the costs to their driving constituents.”
The Henry Hudson Bridge, meanwhile, remains indefinitely closed to pedestrians and cyclists during ongoing repair work.