“Tear down those tolls!”

On Tuesday morning, I was invited to hear Governor Andrew Cuomo make a big announcement. The event was held near a fishing dock near the south Grand Island Bridges, called Fisherman’s Landing. It was a warm, windy day. I brought a “fat book” and a camera so that I could document the events of the day. It isn’t every day that I am close enough to a governor to take a photograph. 

Governor Cuomo came to Grand Island to make a Big Announcement.

Apparently, a governor sighting in Grand Island is a truly rare event. I don’t think that I can remember this happening at any time in the past, although I do remember a video of Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray, in which he said, “Governor Cuomo, tear down those tolls.”

Yes, the tolls. They’re not very popular. No one likes to wait on line to pay a toll, especially during the summer tourist season. Also, all of those cars and trucks and buses idling as they wait to get through the toll booths produce emissions, which has a negative effect on the environment. 

So… the Big Announcement. The toll booths are going to be replaced by… CASHLESS TOLLING. That doesn’t mean that the tolls are going away; it just means that the means of collecting the tolls will be changed. A positive of that is that traffic will move more smoothly and vehicles won’t idle and produce all of those unpleasant emissions. 

Removing toll booths is supposed to be part of a renaissance for western New York. This restoration involves reclaiming green space, investing in tourism, outdoor heritage, state parks, and a

visitors center, which is to be located in Grand Island. Governor Cuomo said that this center, a “Next Generation Welcome Center,” will include a children’s play area, a Taste New York Store, an electric vehicle charging station, and more. It will promote tourism in the region. 

Matthew Driscoll, commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation, talked about the “delays and paralyzing backups.” He said, “Time is money.” The cashless tolls, which will be put in place in March of 2018 will “save 200-plus minutes in travel time per year.”

“The toll booths are an obstacle,” Governor Cuomo said. “It’s a stress creator. Whatever line you get on is the wrong one. It is delays and traffic.”

Everything sounded great. Governor Cuomo talked about “removing obstacles that make it hard to get from here to there.” Unfortunately, he never mentioned mass transit. He never mentioned people who would be gleeful if 200 minutes were all they lost in travel time in the course of a year.

I have shared with you pictures of places that I’ve visited in Buffalo. What I have not shared thus far is the ordeal that I must go through to get there. Western New York is advertised as a place where commuting is easy, where you can get just about anywhere in twenty minutes. That’s true, if you own a car. If you don’t own a car, you must plan for a trip that is measured in hours, not in minutes.

So this is my reality.When I want to catch a bus to downtown Buffalo, I walk three miles to the bus stop, ride the bus, which takes about forty five minutes. The return trip is pretty much the same. It takes me far less than a year to lose those two hundred minutes. Try a week. And there are many places in Western New York that are completely inaccessible by mass transit.

I am not alone. This transportation challenge is a reality for thirty percent of the households in the City of Buffalo. This is truly a tale of two cities. The transportation disparity means that too many people are being left out of the region’s renaissance. 

Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray said, “We are the land of visionaries and dreamers.” 

Yes, we are. Let’s get together and realize a good dream and a wonderful vision of inclusion. Let’s make a renaissance in Grand Island and in Western New York that includes everyone. Let’s build a transportation system that is good for the environment and for all people. Everyone. No exceptions.

2 thoughts on ““Tear down those tolls!””

  1. I hear you loud and clear, Alice. The Binghamton area is a transit desert, too (if my husband didn't drive, my life would be a lot tougher). They keep cutting our mass transit in the name of "progress". And the one time I can remember a governor's visit is when the governor buzzed over my neighborhood in a helicopter after the Flood of 2006. Big whoop. Cashless tolls. And just wait till we start paying for the Tappen Zee bridge.

  2. Cerebrations.biz

    Removing the booths is more a method to generate more profit from the tolls- there won't be any jobs (and payroll) anymore. Sure, it amy only be a few people, but that's the fact. Moreover, using a machine makes it easier for the agency to raise tolls. Because folks don't recognize how much more they are paying every time they cross the barrier.
    So much for "progress".

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