Brooklyn Motorists in Hell. Courtesy of the "free bridge" policy.
Mayor Bloomberg hit the ball out of the park when he gave an "Earth Day" speech in City Hall's Blue Room. He touches on a series of what I think are intelligent and well-considered environmental and development matters. But I'll only deal with the hot potato: congestion pricing.
Basically, the plan is: like this:
- if you drive onto the streets of Manhattan south of 86th Street during the hours of 6am and 6pm, there will be a charge of $8
- those who drive in, and stay on the West Side Highway or FDR in order to drive north of 86th Street, will be exempt. Taxis, buses, emergency vehicles and vehicles with handicapped plates are also exempt from the charge.
- If you entered the City by way of the toll bridges and tunnels and pay with E-Z Pass you will have the amount of the tolls deducted from the congestion charge. So, if I understand correctly, those who travel via the Battery Tunnel, and who pay the $4 each way toll, will pay a net congestion charge of zero.
There are larger traffic issues that can be discussed, but allow me to focus on one thing only.- the "free toll" policy, especially during rush hours, is strangling traffic on the Gowanus and Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Every hour during the day, hundreds of vehicles from Brooklyn/SI/Long Island bypass the Battery Tunnel in order to get to the free bridges. Which causes traffic on the three-lane BQE to slow to a crawl, often to a dead stop during the daylight hours. Think what this means for the Brooklyn economy.
I work downtown now. I have a ringside seat to the traffic that is not going anywhere. This strangles the traffic arteries within Brooklyn, to/from LaGuardia, from Brooklyn to the Bronx and points north.
If it did nothing else, Bloomberg's plan would divert many Manhattan-bound vehicles to the Battery Tunnel. Which would allow the Gowanus/Battery traffic to flow much better during the work day. Which is good for every Bay Ridge and Brooklyn resident, and ultimately to every Bay Ridge and Brooklyn ( and other ) motorist.
Bay Ridge is stuck at the nexus of the "Axis of Evil" of bad roads: the Gowanus, the Belt Parkway, and the Staten Island Expressway. Something needs to be done right now. All credit to Mayor Bloomberg for having the guts to propose this necessary legislation now.
The Brooklyn/Queens / Staten Island / Long Island politicians who oppose congestion pricing are selling out the majority of their constituents and the city and state of New York as a whole. I think $8 is far too low, but I'll live with it.
And...I am a member of the AAA, mainly for the towing benefit that membership provides. I think that the AAA would serve its members better by having the guts to support this legislation, which is the only way to get the Gowanus/BQE moving, than it does by stonewalling . Think of the big picture for once. Unless you're going to build another two lanes to the Gowanus/BQE, you'd better get on board the mayor's plan. Many of your members support congestion pricing.
As always, some brilliant thoughts from the mighty Gridlock Sam of the NY Daily News who proposes to:
* Eliminate tolls where they don't belong. Congestion pricing should only be applied where there's heavy congestion and good transit (such as Manhattan south of 60th St.). Remove tolls from the Verrazano Bridge. Let free bridges ring in the Rockaways. Let those on Long Island (which includes Brooklyn and Queens) travel without an E-ZPass over the Triborough, Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges. More city drivers use these crossings than use the free East River bridges.
* Staten Islanders will be happier because they will finally be able to get home without paying a toll. But they deserve more. Widen the Staten Island Expressway and twin the Goethals Bridge.
Lets see what the NYC/NY State govt is made of. Get the Gowanus/BQE moving. Pass congestion pricing now!!