New Congestion Pricing-Type Plan Has More Chance Than Others

April 17, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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By Dennis Holt

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

BROOKLYN — He popularized the word “gridlock;” it has become his nickname, “Gridlock Sam.” He detests it, and he has a plan to mitigate and sharply reduce congestion in our city, especially in Manhattan.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

Although he wisely avoids the phrase, his new plan is a congestion-pricing approach. However, it is slightly different from other plans advanced in recent years. And because he is Sam Schwartz, probably the most outstanding traffic expert in the city, his plan might have a chance. He also has a dog named Brooklyn, so he can’t be all bad.

Let’s get the big numbers up front and go from there. He believes his plan would produce 35,000 new jobs and generate $1.2 billion in revenues, which could be used for much-needed infrastructure repairs.

As with other plans promoted in recent years, a core element of the Schwartz plan is a $5 toll for crossing the East River bridges. He also would charge $5 for all vehicles crossing 60th Street and a surcharge for taxis and livery cabs crossing 86th Street, a measure he says could generate $280 million.

His plan would increase the tunnel tolls in Brooklyn and Queens by 20 cents, making those tolls an even $5. He would leave the Hudson River tolls as they are but would sharply reduce the Verrazano Bridge one-way toll, as well as the tolls for the Robert F. Kennedy (Triborough) Bridge and others connecting Queens and the Bronx.

Therefore, going from one of the outer boroughs to another would become less costly, a feature that none of the other plans had. Schwartz would also  impose a 50-cent fee for bikes on bridges. According to Crain’s New York Business, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz has also suggested a “walking fee” across the bridges.

The trouble with this and all other plans is that Albany would have to approve it, but upstate Republicans want to keep the city financially dependent on them.

Schwartz’s plan also has no provisions for managing daytime truck deliveries or requiring staggered working hours. We also don’t believe that his plan has any provisions for residential permit parking for the Downtown Brooklyn area, clearly an oversight on his part.

But the Schwartz plan does contain some new wrinkles. More importantly, it strongly reinforces most people’s conviction that we have talked and studied enough. Now it is time to get on with some solid reforms that will make our city better in reality, not just in theory.

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