It was a little tough to hear above all the noise about subway and bus fare hikes at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's recent public hearings. However, drivers will also get caught in the agency's budget gap, when tolls go up next year.
"We've had two in the past 18 months, and we really think it's unfair to motorists," said Robert Sinclair, a spokesman for AAA of New York. "The tolls that are collected are about 300 percent of what it takes to maintain the facilities."
Given their deep financial hole, MTA officials say both transit fares and the tolls on its nine bridges and tunnels must go up, starting in January.
At the major crossings, the proposed cash toll would increase from $5.50 a trip to $6.
On smaller spans like the Marine Parkway and the Cross Bay, where the toll is now $2.75, the cash charge would go up to $3. The Henry Hudson Bridge will go from $3 to $3.50.
E-ZPass drivers, who get about a dollar discount on all the crossings, would face a 10 percent hike per trip.
AAA officials says drivers, socked with a new $50 vehicle registration fee as part of last year's MTA bailout, are a too-easy target.
"We are actually subsidizing mass transit, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but we think there needs to be some equity," says Sinclair.
Subsidized or not, transit advocates saying straphangers should not be asked to pay more and get less service. They have renewed their call to introduce tolls on the city's East River bridges. They also want to revive Mayor Michael Bloomberg's congestion pricing plan, which would charge drivers to enter much of Manhattan, probably below 96th Street, at the busiest times of the day.
AAA opposes both moves, which are out of the MTA's hands and up to the state Legislature.