The residents of Staten Island and Brooklyn rely on a combination of roads, bridges, ferries, tunnels, buses, and subway lines each day. Knowing the importance of safe roads and efficient public transportation, improving New York’s transit system is of the utmost importance to me. Some of my biggest transportation priorities include:
Fighting Toll Hikes
In September 2011, the PANYNJ imposed unreasonable toll hikes on commuters using its bridges and tunnels. The people of Staten Island have been hit the hardest as these hikes put additional strain on families and small businesses, and could result in the loss of jobs from the district. In addition to working with local and state leaders to work out a solution that brings relief to residents, I am doing everything in my power to bring toll relief from the federal level.
Returning Tolls to Just and Reasonable Rates
I have introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Commuter Protection Act (H.R. 3684) with Senator Lautenberg to restore the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) ability to determine whether toll hikes are fair to drivers and to give the department authority to prescribe more reasonable tolls. This would add much-needed oversight to the PANYNJ to ensure that any toll hikes are just and reasonable.
Maintaining Toll Discounts for Residents
New Yorkers, particularly those living in Staten Island, pay exorbitant tolls each day - often subsidizing other parts of the region with few benefits in return. The toll discount for residents provides some financial relief; however, that discount is at risk of being eliminated. To preserve the discount, I have introduced the Residential and Commuter Toll Fairness Act (H.R. 897) that would allow state and municipal governments to offer discounted rates to residents for trips taken on roads, bridges, rail, bus, ferry, or other transportation systems. This legislation is in response to a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on the case of Selevan v. New York Thruway Authority, which ruled that that toll discounts for New York residents of towns bordering the New York Thruway are unconstitutional.
Preserving Parity in Commuter Benefits
Before January 1, 2012, both public transportation commuters and drivers received a pre-tax benefit up to $230 for the cost of commuting to and from work. On January 1st, the benefit for drivers increased to $240, whereas the benefit for public transportation users was reduced to $125. Not only does this encourage the use of public transportation and put more cars back on our streets, it is simply unfair. That is why I have been a leader in pushing for parity in commuter benefits, to set the rate at $200 for both drivers and those taking public transportation.
Mass Transit over the Bayonne Bridge
Staten Island commuters are faced with some of the longest commutes in the nation. To relieve road congestion and help lower commute times, I have made the inclusion of a mass transit option over the Bayonne Bridge a top priority. This would provide an alternative form of public transportation, allowing commuters to access the Hudson-Bergen light rail – connecting them to New Jersey and providing an alternative route to lower Manhattan via the PATH. This would help alleviate congestion on routes such as the Verrazano Bridge, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the East River Crossings. I continue to work with the Port Authority and other key players to find the best way to incorporate the mass transit extension into plans to raise the Bayonne Bridge.