MTA Deal Approaches; California HSR Under Threat in Peninsula

New York City may finally be getting the deal for which it’s been pleading for years

Streetsblog reports that New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority may be getting at least part of the deal described by the Ravitch Commission I discussed last December. The plan would implement tolls for cars “at the price of a single ride MetroCard” (currently $2) on the currently free East and Harlem River bridges, including the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg spans. Trucks are likely to be charged a lot more.

This agreement represents the end of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s manic attempts beginning two years ago to prevent the implementation of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s congestion charge plan, which would have enforced a fee for cars entering, leaving, or moving about the lower half of Manhattan. This plan will transfer ownership of the bridges from the New York City Department of the Transportation to the MTA, which already controls several of the city’s tunnels and bridges the George Washington Bridge.  It will (at least partially) rescue the MTA, which is facing a huge $1.2 billion budget deficit in the next fiscal year. The charges on the bridges will bring in something in the realm of $400 million a year.

The deal is also likely to significantly reduce truck traffic in Lower Manhattan and increase ridership on the subways. Though I’m a bit perplexed that people riding mass transit should have to pay the same amount to get across a bridge as people driving in cars, it’s better than nothing. That said, the MTA still needs more money to get through this fiscal crisis.

The New York State Assembly, which has been notoriously anti-toll in the past, will have to approve this plan before it can take effect…

Palo Alto finding ways to push California High-Speed Rail to the sidelines

Meanwhile, across the continent, California High-Speed Rail Blog reports that Palo Alto’s city council has sent a letter to the state’s high-speed rail authority, asking it to consider tunneling the fast trains under the city or rerouting them through the East Bay, rather than up the west side of the peninsula. As Robert argues, Palo Alto needs to accept the limited negative effects of new high-speed rail service in return for the great benefits that will be accrued from fast trains heading to Los Angeles and San Diego.

We’re going to be facing a lot of opposition like this as high-speed rail projects are pushed around the country.

Forgive me for my limited posting today; it’s been a hectic one.

6 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • As an American transit consultant working in Australia — where local government is powerless and irrelevant — I often pitch the virtues of stronger local government, because it’s where ordinary citizens can get engaged in political action.

    Palo Alto’s action is certainly an embarrassment on that score. In fact, it’s the sort of action that Australians will cite in defense of their system. In that system, state governments have all the power, while city councils have only the powers that the state doesn’t want — e.g. trash collection, approving minor home improvements, and arranging community festivals.

  • Ray

    Hi. Great postings. Perhaps you meant to mention the RFK bridge above? Thankfully, the G.W. Bridge is a Port Authority of NY and NJ crossing … out of the NY State Assembly’s reach.

  • FANTASTIC news about the Ravitch compromise. It’s better than nothing and sets the stage for eventual further increases – which will be an effective tool to migrate more riders onto mass transit.

  • Kyle - Boston

    It’s good to hear about the MTA funding. I know the rejection last year in Albany was a major setback. Hopefully this can get things moving and promote further transit investment in NY.

  • Yonah. Why do you combine all the day’s posts into one? It seems to me if you did separate posts on each topic, the results would be easier to organise and search, and the comments thread would make more sense.

  • Ian Leighton

    “accept minimal negative affects” should emphasize there are positive affects that far outweigh the former.

    plus the Palo Alto city council has been spoon-fed the “Berlin Wall” grade separation argument, when in reality HSR grade separations could make Palo Alto look nicer than it does today.
    [see California HSR Blog’s post on grade separation for some beautiful pictures].

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