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The MTA Wants $750K From the NYC Marathon. They Should Charge Drivers an Extra Cent Instead

Reminder: $750,000 is 0.48 percent of what taxpayers spent on the NYPD's overtime pay in the subway system last year.

Thousands of runners on the upper roadway of the Verrazzano Bridge during the 2021 marathon.

The 50th running of the TCS New York City Marathon on Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021. (Marc A. Hermann / MTA)

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which has an annual operating budget in the tens of billions of dollars, wants the New York City Marathon to cough up $750,000 to make up for the lost tolls when the runners use the Verrazzano Bridge for a few hours once a year. That amount is about 0.48 percent of what taxpayers spent on the NYPD's overtime pay in the subway system last year.

And it's not just the marathon—the transit agency also wants cyclists to pay them too, for the use of the Verrazzano during the Five Boro Bike Tour.

The Times has the story:

The MTA has quietly demanded roughly $750,000 a year from the organization that runs the marathon, to make up for the toll revenue that the authority loses when it closes the Verrazzano—North America's longest suspension bridge — to vehicular traffic, according to interviews and memos reviewed by The New York Times.

The organization, the New York Road Runners, has yet to acquiesce, prompting the M.T.A. to play hardball. 

"New Yorkers love Marathon Sunday, but taxpayers cannot be expected to subsidize a wealthy nongovernment organization like the New York Road Runners to the tune of $750,000," Catherine Sheridan, the president of MTA Bridges and Tunnels, said in a statement. "The MTA is prepared to continue working toward a final agreement with the NYRR, provided it leads, over time, to full reimbursement for the lost revenue."

While we hesitate to rush to the defense of Big Running, this feels especially petty. Events like the marathon are a point of civic pride, like our vast, 24/7 subway system. The communal excitement of the marathon also does a lot to smooth over the things that make living in New York City exasperating—like our piss-soaked, chronically tardy subway system. We should be encouraging large groups of pedestrians to use our bridges for fun events, not walling them off behind a six-figure surcharge. Bridges belong to everyone!

There is an easy solution at hand. If the MTA really needs $750,000—which again, is less than what you'll pay to own a spiffy two-bedroom condo in Bay Ridge—it can charge drivers who use the bridge an extra cent. So instead of paying $2.75, Staten Island drivers would pay $2.76. 

The Verrazzano sees an average of 200,000 car trips every day. That's 73,000,000 trips a year. With an extra cent per trip, that's $730,000 in the MTA's pocket. Close enough!

Or—the MTA can stop acting like the roommate who sends you a 42 cent Venmo request for a banana.

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