Pols push Verrazano-Narrows Bridge toll discount plan
They want drivers to get break for 3 or more trips a month
In the wake of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority move to increase bridge and tunnel tolls and bus and subway fares, two Bay Ridge elected officials are renewing their call for Brooklyn residents to receive a discount on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge toll.
State Sen. Marty Golden and Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis are reviving a plan they first proposed last year that would allow Brooklyn residents who drive on the bridge three or more times a month to get discounts on the toll similar to the discounts that are offered to drivers on the Port Authority-operated crossings separating Staten Island and New Jersey.
In 2012 the Port Authority created a bridge discount program, giving a discount on the tolls to drivers traveling over the Goethals Bridge, Outerbridge Crossing and the Bayonne Bridge three times or more a month.
Golden and Malliotakis said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) should follow the Port Authority’s lead and adjust the tolls on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.
The two lawmakers have started a public relations campaign to seek support for their proposal.
“We’re asking people to support us and to sign our petition,” Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) told the Brooklyn Eagle. The petition can be found at www.thetollsaretoodamnhigh.com.
On Jan. 22, the MTA’s board voted to increase the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge toll from $15 to $16. The board also voted to raise baseline subway and bus fares from $2.50 a ride to $2.75 and announced plans for across-the-board increases on the city’s bridges and tunnels. The new rates go into effect March 22.
The MTA does offer a toll discount on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to drivers who have E-Z Pass. But Staten Islanders get a bigger discount than drivers from other boroughs. Staten Islanders who have E-Z- Pass and who make three or more trips a month on the bridge will pay $6.24 a trip when the toll increase becomes effective in March, saving nearly $10 off the $16 toll. All other drivers with E-Z- Pass will pay $11.08 a trip.
“Staten Islanders deserve that discount,” Golden told the Eagle. “It could be argued that they have no way to get off the island except for the bridge and the ferry. But it could also be argued that we here in Brooklyn have no way to get onto the island except by the bridge.”
Golden also said many Brooklyn residents, particularly those who live in Bay Ridge, have family members who are Staten Islanders and travel back and forth on the bridge on a daily basis.
Councilmember Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) said he was “dissatisfied but sadly not surprised” by the MTA’s decision to raise transit fares.
MTA officials said they made every effort to keep the increases on the low side.
“The MTA has been able to limit these fare and toll increases to the equivalent of 2 percent a year thanks to our continued aggressive cost-cutting, while still adding service and improving service quality for our growing number of customers,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said in a statement.
“New Yorkers are not ATM machines,” Gentile said. “No matter how small the increase, it is not a triumph if the MTA must raise fares and balance budget on the backs of hardworking New Yorkers.”
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