ALBANY—As legislators weigh implementing some or all of the recommendations of the Ravitch Commission–which was convened to find ways to rescue the M.T.A. from it’s fiscal crisis– one state senator says tolling the Harlem River bridges would be regressive.
“I hope that we can make a distinction between the East River and Harlem River. If the ultimate goal is to raise revenue, you’re going to do it on the backs of folks who can least afford it by doing it over the Harlem River,” State Senator Jose Serrano said, noting that families commute to take children to school over the bridges. “If the goal is, from a different point of view, to remove cars from the road, ultimately to reduce the numbers of people endeavoring to drive in, then I’m supportive of that.”
The commission recommended tolls on the bridges over both rivers, with the East River tollst comparable to other M.T.A. bridge fees, and the Harlem River tolls more like the cost of a single-ride subway fare.
I asked if he was implying that tolls on Harlem River bridges would be inherently more regressive given the socioeconomic backgrounds of people living in the bridged neighborhoods, as compared to the neighborhoods abutting the East River. He said not necessarily.
“Those are larger bridges, over which there’s a lot of folks that come from Long Island. I think it’s more of a mixed bag of folks that come from, financially,” he said. “I am concerned, and I always will be concerned, about taxes and tolls that may disproportionately hurt a group of people.”
Then a concluding caveat: “All that said, I don’t have the strongest of opinions or knowledge on this issue.”
The East River bridges fall within the district of State Senator Daniel Squadron, who supported congestion pricing, but opposes the tolls.
Members of the M.T.A.’s board of directors traveled yesterday to Albany to lobby legislators, but received an ambiguous reception. Transportation advocates were also in town (because an earlier train was canceled, they ended up on the same Amtrak as the M.T.A. folks), lobbying for something in the spirit of Ravitch’s recommendations, not necessarily the Ravitch prescription.
David Paterson called on legislators to implement the Ravitch plan in his State of the State address last week.