Feb. 23, 2015 By Michael Florio
A proposed plan that would charge commuters a toll for using the Queensboro bridge—and three other New York City bridges–was put forward last week by an advocacy group that includes the former NYC traffic commissioner.
MoveNY, a group comprised of traffic experts, research planners and eco-friendly non-profit firms, claims the tolls would lower traffic congestion and raise funds for the MTA.
Under the proposal, workers who commute to Manhattan via the Queensboro Bridge each day would have to pay about $60 a week.
The tolls would also be placed on the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges.
The toll on these four bridges would cost $5.54 each way if paid by E-ZPass and $8 each way for other drivers.
There wouldn’t be a toll booth. Instead there would be a sensor that would charge E-ZPass drivers as they go over the bridge. For those without E-ZPass, a camera would take a photo of people’s license plates and they would receive a bill in the mail, according to Bart Robbett, Communications Advisor with MoveNY.
The tolls on other MTA bridges—such as the Triborough and Whitestone– would be lowered $2.50 each way.
However, there are benefits for having a toll on the Queensboro Bridge for western Queens residents, Robbett said.
For one, there would be fewer vehicles exiting the Grand Central Parkway and driving through residential neighborhoods to get to the bridge.
“There would be fewer people going out of their way to get on the free bridge,” Robbett said. “These people are causing problems for [Western Queens] neighborhoods, by adding to the traffic.”
“There would be less traffic at places such as Queens Plaza,” he said, where people start jockeying for position to get over the bridge.
“They will have to pay, but they will see benefits,” he said.
Samuel Schwartz, a former New York City Traffic Commissioner, developed the proposal after his research found that the streets near the free bridges were congested. The bridges with tolls, he found, had far less congestion.
In addition to easing traffic congestion, MoveNY claims the new plan would generate $1.5 billion in revenue per year, which would go toward maintaining, expanding and modernizing the transit system and improving city bridges and roads.
“I know we can do better — better with traffic flow, reducing traffic crashes and fatalities, and being fairer to drivers [who use other MTA bridges], especially in the outer parts of the city,” Schwartz said.
State legislators would have to pass the proposal, since the state oversees the MTA.