Cross Bay Bridge Toll Takes Center Stage At MTA Public Hearing
Much of the focus of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's second public hearing Tuesday on fare hikes and service cuts was on the plan to begin charging some Queens residents to cross a local bridge. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
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Public hearings are for airing criticism, but some of the flak the MTA board took Tuesday had nothing to do with transit service; instead, it was about the timing of the hearing itself.
"It is anti-American to hold a public hearing on the same day as the inauguration of our 44th president," said one Queens resident.
"The number of people you see here today would have been greater if these hearings were scheduled of a day with less conflict of interest for the people," said another.
Still, an estimated 300 people turned out at the Sheraton LaGuardia East, many of them residents of Broad Channel and the Rockaways, who were there to protest a plan to charge them for driving the Cross Bay Bridge. Currently, local residents pay a toll -- but get a refund under a program the MTA wants to eliminate.
"The bridge is vital to our existence," said a local resident. "It is the only place in New York City where a neighbor is charged a toll to visit, go to school, or shop within the same borough."
"Any toll on this bridge violates the New York City Charter and will be a hardship for the residents of the Rockaways and Broad Channel," said another.
In addition to toll increases, the MTA also plans to raise the base subway and bus fare as high as $3 in June and implement service cuts in the spring. Among the cuts proposed by the agency is the elimination of the Q26, Q56, Q74, Q75, Q84, QM22, QM23 and X32 bus routes.
However, the MTA says the cuts and fare hikes can be avoided if Albany implements the recommendations of the Ravitch Commission.
"Our message is that we encourage the Queens residents and the other residents of the MTA district to lobby their legislators in Albany so we get the Ravitch plan passed," said MTA Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Elliot "Lee" Sander.
Tuesday's hearing was the second of eight public hearings throughout the region. The next to take place in the five boroughs will be held next Monday night on Staten Island.