Gridlock Sam, congestion-pricing evangelist, plays to a wider audience

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Pre-1911 East River bridge tolls. (via SamSchwartz.com)
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(Gridlock) Sam Schwartz, the former city traffic commissioner and current congrestion-pricing evangelist, has for a while now been making the rounds of the New York establishment, pitching a new plan to place tolls on the free East River bridges.

Today, in a an op-ed in the Daily News, where he used to write a regular column, he discusses the irrationality of New York City's current tolling scheme. His evidence includes, among other things, this:

We toll drivers going from one part of Queens to another across the Cross Bay Bridge — but not going from Queens into Manhattan’s central business district across the Queensboro Bridge (which we did toll until 1911).

And this:

We toll everybody driving to Staten Island as if it were one giant central business district. Drivers pay $13 cash to enter the borough from Brooklyn and $12 to enter from New Jersey’s three bridges. Truckers pay double or triple that amount, jacking up prices for everyone on the island. Why?

And this:

A truck going from Brooklyn to New Jersey can take Interstate 278, the 1964 Verrazano Bridge and the Staten Island Expressway (all built for trucks) to the Goethals Bridge to New Jersey — or take Flatbush Ave, go over the 1909 Manhattan Bridge and drive through Chinatown across Canal St. to the Holland or Lincoln Tunnel.

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His solution is a new pricing scheme that would bring a measure of financial stability to a mass transit system that is revenue-impaired, without, in theory, alienating car owners in the outer boroughs.

It's a strong case on the merits, but the merits aren't the determinative thing.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a push a while back for a system like the one Schwartz is outlining, but City Hall's initiative, as so often happens, died in Albany. No one has tried since then.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said recently congestion pricing is not politically feasible, and the current crop of mayoral candidates is pretty much ignoring the idea.