Verrazzano Bridge toll will soon go both ways

The MTA announced this week that as of Dec. 1, the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge will be tolled in both directions after 35 years of one-way westbound tolling. (Thanks to James for the heads-up.)

The result should reduce the imbalance in vehicle crossings, since trucks and cars both use the bridge as a toll workaround going eastbound from Staten Island to Brooklyn. They then headed to Manhattan using the free downtown bridges and created a commercial thoroughfare out of Canal Street. It also herded drivers from Brooklyn to use Canal Street as a way to get to Jersey for a discount, rather than taking the highways that were designed for that route and paying the $19 toll.

The new rate will be $6.12 for E-ZPass customers, $9.50 for those without, and the rate is discounted to $2.75 for Staten Islanders (this makes no sense to me, but I’ll leave it alone).

The bridge was the country’s only one with federally-mandated one-direction tolling for more than three decades — it took an act of Congress to amend the directive. Split-tolling is expected to reduce the number of vehicles cutting through Staten Island by 7,000 per weekday, using pre-pandemic numbers.

The Verrazzano is among the busiest bridges in the country, logging more than 215,000 vehicular crossings on weekdays prior to the pandemic.

For a good explanation of what this means for Lower Manhattan, Streetsblog smartly asked Sam Schwartz, who had this reply to them:

“When one-way tolling was first proposed by Staten Island Rep. Guy Molinari in the mid-1980s, I was at NYC DOT, and we opposed it on several grounds: the feds should not be deciding traffic patterns in NYC, and, secondly, one-way tolling would add traffic especially trucks to lower Manhattan. We were proven right, as you will read on.

“Nonetheless, in 1986 the tolls were removed from the Brooklyn-bound lanes and the toll was doubled Staten Island-bound. So a driver from, say, the area of the [current] Barclays Center to Newark Airport had two choices: he could use highways most of the way by taking the BQE/Gowanus to the Verrazzano Bridge to the Staten Island Expressway to the Goethals Bridge or take Flatbush Avenue across the Manhattan Bridge onto Canal Street and out the Holland Tunnel. The highway alternative is tolled while taking city streets is ‘free.’

“Truckers could save $92 (or more if they’re bigger) by taking Canal Street (many pedestrian fatalities have been recorded, often trucks involved) than taking the Gowanus/VZ Bridge. Over 9,000 more drivers daily take the VZ bridge to Brooklyn than Staten Island demonstrating this skew. Most end up on streets like Canal, Delancey, Broome and other lower Manhattan streets as well as some spillover to Midtown as those streets and the Holland Tunnel fill up.

“I need not tell you using highways over streets means fewer crashes (no peds and bikes killed), less pollution near where people walk and live and less energy used per mile, ergo less GHGs.”

 

22 Comments

  1. I don’t see how this solves the Barclays Center to Newark Airport problem in Sam’s own example. That route will still be free for trucks over the Brooklyn/Manhattan bridges and out the Holland Tunnel.

    That issue will only be solved when the (now delayed) congestion pricing tolls those bridges to incoming traffic. That’s bound to make an major impact.

    Stay tuned…

  2. I hate to break this to lower Manhattan residents but all those trucks are still going to clog up your streets, except they will be arriving and leaving via the Holland Tunnel and Canal Street.

    • Well, most of the time the Holland is already so backed up it won’t be able to take any more traffic.

    • From the Port Authority website:

      Commercial vehicles in classes 4, 5 and 6 (four-, five- and six-axle trucks) are prohibited from using the Holland Tunnel. Please use the Lincoln Tunnel or George Washington Bridge instead.

      Commercial vehicles in classes 1, 2 and 3 (two- and three-axle single-unit trucks) may use the Holland Tunnel in either direction.

      Tractor-trailers and trucks in classes 4, 5 and 6 (four-, five- and six-axle trucks) are prohibited from using the tunnel in either direction at all times.

      Trailers and towed vehicles are prohibited from using the tunnel in either direction at all times.

  3. Good report, Pam, and you were smart to put in Sam Schwartz’s account from Streetsblog. Sam fought for decades to restore the Verrazzano’s two-way tolling, making the case to countless elected officials and civic groups. Several years ago he got the Hudson Square B.I.D. on board, and they commissioned a traffic study by Sam’s consulting firm that quantified the traffic benefits to drivers and lower Manhattan from eliminating the skewed toll setup (more on that in a sec).

    Your description of the Verrazzano toll imbalance may be a bit off. The main damage from charging the double-toll westbound and offering free passage eastbound was to incentivize truckers and car drivers headed from Brooklyn to New Jersey to detour through downtown Brooklyn and over a free East River bridge into lower Manhattan and through the free (westbound) Holland Tunnel. Equalizing the Verrazzano tolls in both directions will cut down on that “toll-shopping.” There will be some offsetting increase in eastbound traffic through lower Manhattan but it will be less than the drop in westbound.

    I worked on the 2018 Sam Schwartz study. A copy of the 7-page summary is available here: http://www.hudsonsquarebid.org/2015/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Finalized-study-with-brand.pdf.

    Last point: Your subhead refers to “closing the traffic loophole that clogged Downtown.” I would say it closes *a* traffic loophole that has clogged Downtown. The other, even bigger loophole, is the absence of tolls on the East River bridges. Closing *that* loophole, with congestion pricing, will more than double the traffic improvement from balancing the Verrazzano tolls alone, as the Sam Schwartz study shows.

    With Biden’s election win set to clear the Trump administration’s hold on congestion pricing, all of us in lower Manhattan who want safer, quieter, cleaner and less-stressful streets should make sure that our elected officials and community leaders stand with Gov. Cuomo and the MTA as they (finally) move to implement congestion pricing.

  4. First off stop crying cuz your free ride is literally over. Next up should be Staten Islanders paying the full toll price like everyone else & 2.75 each way for the Staten Island Ferry. You should get two free ferry rides because you chose to live on an island? Nah. If so then people who take PATH to work & back should have free rides, too.

    Second commercial vehicles should be banned from the tunnel of they’re not banned already. They should also be banned from using Canal Street unless they can show they need to use it e.g. you have to make a delivery on Canal or two blocks below it.

    Last so what if traffic will be the same? I think it’ll be reduced since the free ride is over but if not the two-way toll will generate more revenue regardless. Now you will literally pay for clogging Manhattan streets.

    • Ban your head to the wall, all other four boroughs have bridges connecting each other, why Staten Islander has to pay the toll ? Are you out of your mind?

  5. I do not feel it is fair to stigmatize Staten Island residents. They are the only NYC citizens who have to pay to come into town. It should be free.

    • The only NYC residents who have to pay to get into town? Are you serious with that remark? When millions of outerborough people have to spend 5.50 roundtrip a day or 27.50 a week, or 127 a month just to travel to/from Manhattan & within NYC for work? While some SI-ers can literally walk or bike to the ferry then their FiDi or BPC office & back for $0. Or some can use just a gallon of gas to & from the ferry a week (housewife takes hubby to & from the ferry.)

      Try the only New Yorkers who get a free roundtrip ferry ride & commuter rail-NYC subway/busride like this:

      SI Railroad to SI Ferry (2.75) then free ferry ride & subway/bus transfer to work then a subway/bus ride back to the ferry (2.75) then another free ferry ride & transfer to SI Ferry. Six rides for the price of two.

      You do realize there’s a toll on the Verrazzano so New Jerseyians don’t get a free pass right?

      • …or househubby takes wife to & from the ferry.

      • It was the NYCDOT that chose to eliminate the ferry fare because they didn’t want to spend the money on installing Metrocard readers in the Whitehall and St. George ferry terminals.

        The Verrazzano (I-278) is SI’s only physical connection to the rest of NYC. That is the sole reason for the SI resident discount. We do not and never will have a subway connection because of the enormous costs involved. The express buses. which of course use the Verrazzano. are in effect our ‘subway’.

        • The ferry was free for years before the Metrocard & again, the Verrazzano has a toll to prevent cars from outside the city from avoiding a toll altogether which is only fair as everyone else has to pay a toll.

          You have a train which takes you to & from the ferry for only 2.75 each way, a free roundtrip ferry ride & transfer to & from it, and the lowest bridge toll fare in NYC if not the entire nation, so stop complaining, especially when a Jersey City resident has to pay $11 roundtrip a day for PATH & NYC subway for their commute to & from work in NYC (5.50 each system) or 236 a month for two 31-day unlimited ride passes (127 NYC + 109 PATH.)

          No one forced you to live on an island & bottom line is you pay only 5.50 roundtrip like everyone else in the city, although one could argue more money is spent on SI commuters than any other NYC commuters so perhaps there should be a ferry fare & perhaps a higher SI Railway fare. Bus to rail to ferry to subway & back & you pay only 5.50 roundtrip for all that or double the Jersey City resident.

          Again, you could use less than a gallon of gas taking your spouse to & from the ferry for her/his commute or spend nothing if you have a hybrid car. You could spend zero zip nada if you could walk or bike to the ferry & work in lower Manhattan.

          • My wife and I both commute across that bridge every day. I work in Brooklyn, and she works in Queens. There’s no real viable way to get there without driving over the bridge. Without the resident discount, our household commuting expenses would increase by $6000/year. That’s significant to the point where we may have to look for other jobs.

            $11/day (2 cars) vs $38/day

            that’s a difference of $28/day or $140/week

          • Why the hell should I have to pay full price toll on bridge just to get to my own home. All the other boroughs have free connecting bridges. We are not talking about the ferry so that point is irrelevant. We have to pay a bridge toll to get home from new jersey and the rest of NYC would you want to pay $19 a day to cross a damn bridge just to get home??!!! I travel by car from SI to Brooklyn, queens or long island and back on the regular not Manhattan. Your point is only based on travel to “the city” which not everyone on SI does so why should I have to pay again $19 to get home!! My gosh try living in Staten Island maybe you will understand. I grew up in Seattle I had no choice but to come to Staten Island at the age of 15. People are born and raised here they did not have a choice to live on this island or not so stop the ignorance and hate!! People just don’t get it. Also living in NYC is expensive period. We all pay crazy money for continuous poor road conditions. Where the hell is all this money really going to. Straight robbery!! Wake up!!

  6. Not all of us work in Manhattan. Not all of us can take the ferry or the train. Not all express busses run to our work sites at times that we need and most importantly we don’t have the opportunity to take local roads to avoid paying the tolls TO GET AROUND THE OTHER BOROUGHS LIKE YOU! Why the hell would you want Staten Island residents to pay twice as much just to get to work and back home? What’s wrong with you? You want the discount come live in Staten Island. There is no excuse to wish your fellow neighbors more financial strain just because you dont got something they have, grow up, take your frustrations with the officials YOU elected that hike these prices up…child.

    • My heart weeps for you, it truly does.

      Poor baby gets to pay the lowest bridge toll in America and has a free public transportation.

      You obviously failed civics because the state run MTA raises the fares not the mayor or city council.

      And they raise fares because Staten Islanders like you have been getting two free rides for decades (bridge & ferry.) The free ride on the bridge is over.

      Tell you what – since you & 400K or so other people decided to live on an island how ‘ bout you pay for the ferry & the Verranzano bridge toll everyone else but you pays? And pay a SI Railway fare commensurate with what people pay for LIRR & Metro North?

  7. Why would you compare a jersey city resident to NYC resident. Also the Staten Island Ferry became free with the metro card FYI, the fee was 50 cents prior . Lastly, why not toll the east river bridges that has always been a free ride for decades if you have a problem with the Staten island discount (never has it been free).

    • I’m comparing a JC resident to a SI resident because more often than not it costs a JC resident $11 roundtrip a day/$55 a week for a work commute when MTA should offer a free transfer to NYC subways at the five PATH stations in Manhattan during peak hours (say 6 to 9am & 4 to 7pm) since most JC residents pay 109 a month for a 31-day unlimited ride pass for PATH only. Are they complaining? No but a Staten Islander is complaining despite being able to spend NOTHING for a ferry commute to & from FiDi or 5.50 roundtrip for free ferry rides & transfer & the lowest bridge toll in America.

      The ferry was 50 cents prior to the Metrocard, ok, well how nice that you Staten Islanders got the biggest & best discount with the advent of the Metrocard. So you’re complaining & getting snippy about no longer having to pay 50 cents for the ferry or any money period – got it.

      Why not toll the other inner city bridges? Well for one Long Islanders already pay a toll to enter NYC, so it’s unfair to charge them two tolls. Two NYC residents already pay taxes to run the SI Railway & Ferry & maintain the Verranzano most NYC residents don’t use) as well as taxes for subways & buses. Hence why you Staten Islanders should pay more for your three SI exclusive public transportation options. Like NJ people pay taxes for NJ Transit & NYers outside of NYC & CT people pay taxes for Metro North on top of bridge tolls & NYC subwayfare. I feel bad for carless Yonkers people who work in Manhattan not Staten Islanders. No free ferry ride to lower Manhattan for them like you have.

      • You are very passionate about this topic however you have a lot of facts incorrect after you insulted someone on there knowledge of the subject you need to do some research on how MTA works.

        Please realize it is not about defending Staten Island it is about the five boroughs paying there fair share of mass transit. Staten Islanders pay nyc taxes Jersey city residents and Long Island residents do not. For some reason you seem to consider Staten Island like another state you need to compare S.I. to the other boroughs not L.I. or New Jersey.

        Your response to the east river bridges makes no sense the bottom line is the four other boroughs can travel FREE over bridges to get to Manhattan hence why the S.I resident discount it is that simply. Also it not just about Manhattan if Staten island residents want to visit a relative in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx they need to pay and the other boroughs can travel by car for FREE between them.

        Just for your knowledge NYC taxes do not fund SI railway or Verranzzano that is run by the MTA.(since you insulted someone prior you really need to get your facts straight) they do fund the SI Ferry which is funded by the city.

        Also your comment about most NYC residents not using Verranzzano or Staten railway makes no sense. How about all the commercial traffic that brings everything in to the other boroughs food, construction material which makes it the largest revenue producer for the MTA. Two facts you should know one is the only revenue producing mass transit are the bridges so all trains and buses are subsidized by bridges which the other four boroughs benefit most since they have the largest mass transit. The other interesting fact which you can google articles is the bridge tolls subsidy L.I. railway so essentially Staten Island residents are paying for Long Island which makes no sense. Again it is not about defending S.I. understand the Triborough and Verrazzano bridge are the only transit that is not subsidized. Trust me S.I. residents are getting the short end of the mass transit system or the MTA would not give the discount. Hope this helps you understand the other side of the argument.

        • First off I did not “insult” you but “Bubba Joe” did insult me by telling me to “grow up” & calling me a “child” so lecture him about insults.

          Manhattan, Bronx, Queens & Brooklyn pay more than their share of taxes for mass transit to the tune of 2.75 per fare & 127 for a 31 day unlimited ride pass the most expensive fare & unlimited pass in the nation respectively, on top of income taxes & an 8.875% sales tax a Staten Islander with a car or ride can easily avoid by shopping in adjacent NJ (6.625% sales tax or 3% sales tax in one area.) Staten Island? You have a free ferry ride each way & transfer to & from the SI Railway & the lowest commuter rail & bridge toll in the country.

          My defense of Jersey City is it’s unfair that a JC resident has to pay $11 roundtrip a day to commute to Manhattan while a SI person can walk or bike to the SI ferry, ride the ferry free & walk or bike to work in FiDi or pay only 5.50 to commute to work anywhere in NYC. My defense of LI is charge inner city bridge tolls & Long Island people are double charged for a toll.

          Inner city bridge tolls mean tolling Long Islanders more. The fallacy of your argument for them is the Verranzano is not a bridge solely for Staten Islanders, it is a bridge for everyone west of NYC, too. Commercial trucks from & outside of SI use it to avoid bridge & tunnel tolls. That should end & will & traffic by the bridge should improve because of it. Also a Brooklyn Bridge toll means more toll money for a Staten Islander since the only way a SI driver can get into Manhattan is via the Verranzano then a bridge or tunnel to Manhattan. So be careful what you wish for. Besides inner city bridge tolls are grossly unfair to commercial drivers who have to travel between boroughs vs. west of NYC CDs who don’t.

          NYC taxes fund the MTA. Right, NYC taxes fund the free SI ferry even though the vast majority of New Yorkers don’t use it & well under less than half a million SI residents out of 8.4M New Yorkers do. So what are you griping about?

          Fares most definitely pay for mass transit & LIRR & generate far more revenue than bridge & tunnel tolls, are you serious? Mass transit riders help pay for bridges & tolls most of them don’t use. A NJ, LI, or SI driver or driver from elsewhere pays only bridge tolls. Commercial vehicles come from all over not just west of NYC.

          Staten Islanders are not getting the short end. One can drive a spouse to & from the ferry in a hybrid car thus spend nothing on gas. Or less than a gallon or two of gas is used for the to & from. That spouse or someone a walk or bike from the ferry then rides the ferry to Manhattan & back for free then pays 5.50 roundtrip for the subway or bus like everyone else or nothing again if they walk or bike to work. They pay only 2.75 for the Verranzano.

          The subway/busfare has been increased several times since the SI Ferry was made free & you still get a free roundtrip ferry ride, so spare me your aggrievement.

          Bottom line is Staten Island is the only NYC borough where a resident could pay nothing to commute to work in Manhattan with a free mass transit option. Walk or bike to the ferry then work. Again a spouse can take you to & from the ferry in an electric car. You could offset the Verranzano bridge toll with an electric car.

  8. What seems to be forgotten in some of the discussion about congestion pricing is that there are people who live in NYC and don’t just pass through to somewhere else or to work in Manhattan. Tolling the east river bridges will just add to our sense of feeling trapped and restricted in our own home towns, if everytime we want to shop local, visit family, work, and enjoy our home town, we have to pay tolls on top of all the taxes we already pay.

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