Every time you drive across a Metropolitan Transportation Authority bridge, such as the Henry Hudson or Bronx-Whitestone, know that a big chunk of the toll is helping to pay for other people’s rides.
A whopping 63 percent of the $1.5 billion generated on MTA bridges and tunnels in 2011 actually went to supporting the MTA’s buses, subways and commuter railroads, according to figures provided by the agency.
In 1968, state lawmakers gave control of the NYC Transit Authority and the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which was charged with developing a regional transportation system, with an emphasis on mass transit.
“This was done out of a dual recognition that, first, without a financially sound public transportation system, the metropolitan area would choke on its own traffic congestion and cease to be economically viable,” MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan said in an email, “and second, that motorists benefit directly from the mass transit system in the form of reduced traffic congestion.”
To encourage the use of mass transit, fares are kept lower than the actual costs of operation and are subsidized by toll revenue.
According to state law, bridge and tunnel tolls are first used to cover the cost to maintain the crossings. The rest goes to cover MTA debt and is then distributed to the NYC Transit Authority and Metro-North and Long Island railroads.
In 2011, that financial support totaled $939.5 million.
“The idea that you are trying to get more people using mass transit by having artificially high tolls is erroneous because the (mass transit) system can’t absorb it,” said AAA New York spokesman Robert Sinclair.
Motorist support of the MTA goes beyond its crossings. Drivers have to pay MTA surcharges on their driver licenses and vehicle registrations. In addition, motorists pay gas taxes, some of which go to the MTA, Sinclair said.
The mass transit system can’t run without motorist support, he argued
“This idea that they want people to get rid of their cars — they better not,” he said. “They will lose major revenue.”
What do you think? Is this a fair way to use toll revenue? Why or why not? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
(Journal News/LoHud.com file photo of the toll plaza of the Henry Hudson Bridge)