Go ahead, drive in bus lanes and don’t pay tolls – see if we’ll do anything about it – Streetsblog New York City


State lawmakers have used their budget proposals to stick to mass transit by prioritizing drivers blocking bus lanes and smearing their license plates to evade tolls.

The single state Assembly and Senate budget, which represents the legislature’s counter-proposal to the executive’s budget, did not include Gov. Hochul’s proposals to increase fines for blocking bus lanes and increase penalties for evading tolls and defacing your license plate to avoid paying a toll.

The political snub, combined with the fact that neither agency adds extra spending for transit (like reversing how the gas tax is split between transit and highways) left supporters furious.

“One house budgets leave a lot to be desired: no increase in subway or bus service for millions of passengers, no increased law enforcement in the city with the slowest buses in the country , and no guarantee of toll fairness for drivers,” said Danny Pearlstein, director of policy and communications for Riders Alliance. “Leaving politics out of the budget is one thing, but all three measures affect our economic recovery and state revenue and spending.”

As noted by Pearlstein, the suppression of the proposals could be seen as part of the legislature’s attempt to assert a long-lost dominance over the workings of the budget process. Under former and now disgraced governor Andrew Cuomo, lawmakers have complained that non-revenue items have been added to the budget as part of a power move to push through the governor’s priorities, which leaders of both chambers would have tried to push back. year.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters in Albany that a number of issues, such as the mayor’s control of schools, were not included in the Assembly budget because the House bass removed every political item from its budget, although Politico’s Marie French highlighted a number of policy proposals who made the offer of the Assembly.

Hochul’s budget included the fairly common political element of raising the minimum fine for driving or blocking a bus lane from $50 to $125 and created a new fines schedule that raised the cap for bus blockers. repeat bus lanes fined $350 for a fifth bus lane. infringement within one year. The governor’s budget also sought to make toll evasion a criminal offense just like subway fare evasion, and to specifically make it illegal to pass through a toll booth with a defaced license plate, which the State law does not explicitly prohibit.

The decision by state pols to omit Hochul’s initiative looks even worse, as the MTA section of the budget includes non-tax policy ideas such as increasing the penalty for assaulting MTA employees and the creation of new transparency reporting requirements for the agency.

“The Senate added the language of worker aggression to it and actually added language that we support on the transparency of the capital scorecard,” said Rachael Fauss, principal researcher at Reinvent Albany. “Technically, it’s not a budget item either. It’s an element of transparency about how the money is spent and reporting on it, but it’s not like it has a fiscal impact.

The state Senate budget also included sugary concessions promising to deal with bus lane enforcement outside of the budget process, and an empty statement saying the state “recognizes the significant revenue losses resulting from the implementation of cashless tolling”. This latest statement can hardly be believed, as lawmakers also came to the rescue of toll cheats during the budget process in 2020 and 2021, making this year the third consecutive budget in which a governor has proposed doing something about about the matter, only to have state lawmakers reject the proposal.

If history is any guide, the Legislature will fail to act on the issue for the rest of the legislative session, even though it’s a particularly bad time to do nothing about toll cheaters, with the MTA s expects to raise $1 billion in toll revenue next year when congestion pricing is set to begin. If the state Senate at least is going to be true to its word, Fauss said it should just give New York control of its own traffic laws, which activists are calling for this year in a big package of law projects.

“If the Senate wants to do this outside of the budget, they should do it,” Fauss said. “They should extend the city’s home rule to its own streets, simply put, that’s how they should be treated, not in a one-off way to give the city the ability to enforce these bus cameras or to provide the MTA and the city with proposed toll enforcement. Do it broadly for all of these things so the city doesn’t have to come back to Albany every time it wants to prioritize safety and better transit.

Spokespersons for Heastie and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins ​​did not respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for the governor did not comment specifically on the toll or the snubs, but said she would continue to negotiate with legislative leaders.

“Governor. Hochul’s Executive Budget includes bold initiatives to seize this unique opportunity to invest in our future, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Legislature to finalize a budget that serves all New Yorkers,” said the spokesperson.

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