MTA Bridges and Tunnels has advised that beginning on Tuesday, December 1, 2020, at 2 am, tolls will be charged electronically in both directions at the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge. Since 1986, per federal legislation, tolls were only collected Staten Island bound. Now toll amounts will be split and motorists charged in both directions. The MTA stated that the new tolling will reduce traffic congestion and avoid drivers “toll shopping” in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Let us be honest though, for decades the MTA has been a grossly mismanaged and wasteful agency. That mismanagement combined with the Covid-19 pandemic places the agency in an apocalyptic crisis. The agency is facing a deficit of over $16 billion through 2024 with massive staffing and service cuts on the horizon unless Washington steps in with a bailout and/or more borrowing is authorized. Interestingly, of all MTA revenue sources, tolling is projected to have the smallest shortfall (about $800 million) hence the emphasis on tolls. Tolling however is an inefficient debt scheme. Before cashless tolling, about 30% of revenue went just to administer and collect the toll. While that number may be a bit lower due to automated cashless tolling, with the sheer volume of errors and violation notices, the inefficiencies are passed to the toll payers.
Though traffic into Manhattan has decreased, action in the outer boroughs remains strong. Yet, even with Manhattan office buildings empty, Broadway closed, and tourism dried up, there are still those who push for (and hope the Biden administration fast tracks) congestion pricing as a source for revenue. But punishing businesses that are in for a long road back in order to add more debt to the MTA’s woeful balance sheet is as at best misguided and at worst rather sinister. The fact is tolling falls disproportionately on the trucking industry which has valiantly kept hospitals, pharmacies, grocery stores, and consumers stocked during the worst pandemic in a century.
Please note that the total toll amount at the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge does not change, rather the current one-way toll will be split into a two-way toll.
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