Transit Sam


By Sam Schwartz

Dear Sam,

I’m worried. What’s this I hear of instituting tolls on the East River bridges or only two of them, because of the M.T.A. being in the red? While I don’t support the notion of congestion pricing or additional tolls, I do think that you’d have to toll all of or none of the East River bridges. Otherwise, I believe one crossing will be gridlocked (one without the toll) as opposed to the others.


Dear Michael,

I agree with you — all or nothing. There is a proposal circulating to toll just the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges. This is half-baked and would cause diversion to the Brooklyn Bridge, overwhelming the streets of Brooklyn Heights, Downtown Brooklyn and the City Hall/Chinatown area.

This is exactly the situation at the Queensboro Bridge which carries an extra 40,000 vehicles/day because it’s sandwiched between two tolled crossings — the Midtown Tunnel and Triborough Bridge.

That being said, I support value pricing at all four East River bridges. By this, I mean high charges during peak hours, lower midday and nothing, or maybe a nominal charge at night. I also think we should lower tolls at the bridges that have nothing to do with Manhattan traffic such as the Cross Bay, Throgs Neck and/or Verrazano Bridges. Check out my plan at www.gridlocksam.com.


Dear Sam,

Let’s say you are driving southbound on Allen St. and want to make a left turn onto Grand St. The light is green and you begin to make the left turn. Then you see the red light for the cross street. Are you allowed to continue turning without stopping at the center mall and waiting for the cross street signal to turn green? In other words, can you make the left turn without stopping at the center?



Dear Jon,

The answer is yes (which many people don’t know). This mall is about 24 feet wide. The New York State Vehicle and Traffic Laws, under Section 120, states “Where a highway includes two roadways 30 feet or more apart, then every crossing of each intersecting highway shall be regarded as a separate intersection. Therefore, roadways separated by less than 30 feet are considered one intersection and you can continue through the red light.

However, there are a few exceptions such as when there’s a sign stating “Stop Here On Red,” or, of course, if conditions are unsafe.


Sam Schwartz, a former first deputy commissioner of city transportation, is president and C.E.O. of Sam Schwartz Engineering, a traffic engineering consulting firm to private and public entities including the Port Authority at the World Trade Center site. Email your questions to TransitSam@DowntownExpress.com.