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Janes v. Triborough Bridge & Tunnel Auth.

United States District Court, S.D. New York

October 16, 2013

RIVA JANES, BRUCE SCHWARTZ, BETTE GOLDSTEIN, and HILLEL ABRAHAM, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
TRIBOROUGH BRIDGE AND TUNNEL AUTHORITY, METROPOLITAN TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY, JAY H. WALDER, and JAMES FERRARA, Defendants

As Amended November 05, 2013.

For Riva Janes, individually, Bruce Schwartz, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs: Andrew Palmer Bell, LEAD ATTORNEY, Locks Law Firm PLLC, New York, NY; Fran L. Rudich, Seth Richard Lesser, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jeffrey Alan Klafter, Michael John Palitz, Klafter, Olsen & Lesser, LLP, Rye Brook, NY; Harley Jay Schnall, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Office of Harley J. Schnall, New York, NY.

For Bette Goldstein, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Hillel Abraham, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs: Fran L. Rudich, Seth Richard Lesser, LEAD ATTORNEY, Michael John Palitz, Klafter, Olsen & Lesser, LLP, Rye Brook, NY; Harley Jay Schnall, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Office of Harley J. Schnall, New York, NY.

For Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Jay H. Walder, as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, James Ferrara, as President of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, Defendants: Walter Rieman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Steven C. HerzogJoshua David Kaye, Melissa Courtney Monteleone, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP (NY), New York, NY.

OPINION

Page 321

OPINION & ORDER

Paul A. Engelmayer, United States District Judge.

Plaintiffs Riva Janes, Bruce Schwartz, Bette Goldstein, and Hillel Abraham (collectively, " plaintiffs" ), on behalf of a class certified for injunctive purposes, bring this action against the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (" TBTA" ); the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (" MTA" ); Jay H. Walder, Chairman of the MTA (" Walder" ); and James Ferrara, President of the TBTA (" Ferrara" ) (collectively, " defendants" ). Plaintiffs allege that the defendants' differential toll policies, which provide for discounted tolls on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, and the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge that are available only to residents of discrete areas within New York City, are unlawful. Defendants move for summary judgment on plaintiffs' claims. For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion is granted.

Page 322

I. Factual Background[1]

A. Overview of the New York City Transit System

The Court begins with a brief overview of the history, purpose, and function of New York City's transit system, which is essential to an understanding of the policies at issue here and plays a substantial role in the Court's legal analysis.

In 1965, the New York State Legislature created the predecessor to today's MTA. Def. 56.1 ¶ 10; Pl. Resp. to Def. 56.1 ¶ 10[2]; Herzog Decl. Ex. S (" MTA Website" ). The MTA, with its affiliates and subsidiaries, is today " North America's largest transportation network," with an annual ridership in 2012 of 2.6 billion people. Def. 56.1 ¶ 10; MTA Website. The MTA's affiliates and subsidiaries include (1) the New York City Transit Authority (" NYCTA" ), an MTA affiliate which operates, inter alia, the subways in New York City, certain buses, and the Staten Island Railway, see Def. 56.1 ¶ ¶ 11, 13; MTA Website; (2) the Long Island Rail Road (" LIRR" ), an MTA subsidiary, see Def. 56.1 ¶ 16; MTA Website; (3) the Metro-North Railroad (" MNR" ), another MTA subsidiary, see Def. 56.1 ¶ 17; MTA Website; and (4) the TBTA, an MTA affiliate that oversees the operations of nine toll bridges and tunnels within New York City, including the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (the " Verrazano" or " Verrazano Bridge" ), the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge (the " Marine Parkway Bridge" ), and the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge (the " Cross Bay Bridge" ), see Def. 56.1 ¶ 18; MTA Website.

Defendants have put before the Court two thorough and articulate reports from well-qualified and able experts, relating to the history, usage, economics and interdependence of the metropolitan area transit

Page 323

system. See Herzog Decl. Ex. A (" Expert Report of Mitchell L. Moss, Ph.D. and Related Materials" (" Moss Rep." )), Ex. B (" Expert Report of Kenneth A. Small" (" Small Rep." )).[3] Those reports have not been challenged by plaintiffs, nor have plaintiffs rebutted them with expert reports of their own. Accordingly, the Court draws upon these reports in the overview and analysis that follows.

1. Public Transit

New York City's transit system as it exists today began with the construction of the city's subway system, which opened for the first time on October 27, 1904. Moss Rep. 7. Originally, two companies operated the subway system, under a " dual system" put in place in 1913: the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (" IRT" ) and the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company (" BRT" ).[4] Id. at 8. At the time that system was completed, New York's subway system was the largest such system in the world; it " was quickly integrated into commuters' lives." Id.

During the 1920s, this system suffered financially, for a variety of reasons, including the lowering of automobile prices due to mass assembly, a stagnant fare of five cents (and political opposition to raising that fare), and increased fuel costs and wages. Id. at 9, 11. Mayor John F. Hylan therefore envisioned a new subway line owned by the city but which would compete directly with the IRT and BMT and, eventually, would be able to buy out both lines, creating a unified system. Id. at 10. The new system, the Independent (" IND" )--known to many as the " people's subway" --opened in 1932. Id. at 10-11. The BMT and IRT, which were neither entitled to subsidies nor able to increase the five-cent fare, responded by cutting salaries, reducing their workforce, and maintaining old equipment rather than purchasing new, in contrast to the IND's " faster, cleaner, modern subways." Id. Ridership on those lines fell significantly. Id. at 11.

Concerned about the system's disrepair, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia pressed for the unification of the subway system. Id. at 11-12. In 1939, New York City purchased the BMT for $175 million and the IRT for $151 million. Id. at 12. On June 1, 1940, New York City took control of the subways in " the largest railroad merger in U.S. history and the largest financial transaction undertaken by the City of New York at that time." Id.

In response to a drop in ridership in the late 1940s, the New York State Legislature passed legislation reorganizing the subway system and creating the NYC Transit Authority, a semi-independent public corporation run by a board of directors. Id. at 13.

In 1965, New York State created the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Authority, which soon became the MTA. In 1968, the MTA began overseeing the NYC Transit Authority. Id.; see supra pp. 2-3. From the 1960s through the early 1980s, the subway system suffered an enormous decrease in ridership: By the early 1980s, it had declined to " levels not seen since the 1920s, before the full system was built." Id. at 14. In response, in 1979, the MTA began a rebuilding, rehabilitation,

Page 324

and modernization program for the system, entailing a capital investment of more than $72 billion. Id.

Today, the New York City mass transit system consists of 24 subway lines and 217 bus routes. Id. at 15. Some 7.4 million people ride the subways and buses each weekday, id.; four of every five rush-hour commuters to New York's central business districts utilize mass transit, id. at 4. The subway today is an integral part of life in New York City.

2. Bridges and Tunnels

The Triborough Bridge Authority (" TBA" ), chaired by Robert Moses, was created by New York State in 1933 as a public-benefit corporation, originally for the purpose of completing construction of the Triborough Bridge (since renamed the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge). Id. at 25. The TBA was authorized to charge tolls, which were then used to finance construction. Id. The construction of more bridges and tunnels followed, with the goal of " complement[ing] the roads and parkways that [Moses] built, to allow regional traffic to flow well." Id.

In 1940, Moses consolidated the Henry Hudson Parkway Authority, the Marine Parkway Authority, and the New York City Parkway Authority into the TBA to " centralize planning and economy and to fill in gaps in the road and bridge infrastructure." Id. at 26 (citation omitted). In 1946, the New York City Tunnel Authority was also merged into the TBA, creating the TBTA. Id.

New York State's transportation policies began to shift, however, in the 1960s and early 1970s, under the administration of Governor Nelson Rockefeller, moving away " from a highway-focused policy to a broader approach that emphasized maintaining and improving mass transit and intercity rail systems in addition to roads and highways." Id. (citation omitted); see also Molinari v. N.Y. Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, 838 F.Supp. 718, 720 (E.D.N.Y. 1993). In 1968, when the MTA began overseeing the New York City Transit Authority, see supra p. 4, the TBTA became an MTA affiliate. The merger, which contemplated " far greater emphasis than ever before on mass transit," signaled that " [t]he age of Moses was over. Begun on April 23, 1924, it had ended on March 1, 1968. After forty four years of power, the power was gone at last." Robert A. Caro, The Power Broker, 1135, 1144 (1974). New York Public Authorities Law § 1264(1) described the new MTA as having as its purpose, " consistent with its status as ex officio board of both the New York [C]ity [T]ransit [A]uthority and the [T]riborough [B]ridge and [T]unnel [A]uthority, to develop and implement a unified mass transportation policy." N.Y. Pub. Auth. L. § 1264(1).

To that end, a system for redistributing surplus TBTA funds was put in place, and exists to this day. New York Public Authorities Law § 1219-a(2)(b), enacted in 1981, requires that $24 million plus 50% of the balance of the TBTA's operating surplus be transferred to the NYCTA, and that the remainder of the operating surplus be transferred to the MTA. See N.Y. Pub. Auth. L. § 1219-a(2)(b); see also Moss Rep. 27; N.Y. Urban League, Inc. v. State of N.Y., 71 F.3d 1031, 1034 (2d Cir. 1995). The TBTA is thus a vital source of revenue helping to fund New York City's mass transit system. That system, in turn, helps " decrease[] traffic congestion on the bridges and tunnels" and " increase[s] accessibility for workers seeking to commute in and through the MTA region . . . without adding to the traffic on the roads, bridges, and tunnels." Moss Rep. 42-43.

The TBTA bridge and tunnel tolls contribute to a decrease in congestion in more

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than one way. First, they provide a monetary incentive for travelers who have the option to use public transit to do so, so as to avoid toll costs. Id. at 43. Second, they fund major investments in mass transit infrastructure, thereby helping build and sustain a reliable and convenient mass transit system. This too encourages travelers to opt for public transit over cars. Id. at 44. Were there not this integrated system, more congestion on area roads, bridges, and tunnels would result, leading city commuters to experience " lost time, uncertainty of travel times, increased fuel costs, and stress" ; this could, at least indirectly, " affect the quality of life of nearly every resident and business in the Downstate area." Id. at 43.

New York City's transit system differs fundamentally from the systems of other cities, including in the degree to which it consists of a unified, integrated system. " By having responsibility for commuter rail, toll-based bridges and tunnels, buses, and subways, the MTA serves all major modes of travel and transportation within the New York Metropolitan Region, unlike other systems which typically operate only light rail, subways, buses and/or commuter rail systems." Id. at 33. No other transportation agency in the United States controls toll-collecting bridges and tunnels in addition to commuter rail, buses, and subways. Id. As a result, the MTA is able to make " decisions . . . with respect to the subways and buses [that] also affect users of the roadways, and vice-versa." Id. The scale of the MTA and its receipt of funds from the TBTA's bridges and tunnels " has enabled the MTA to provide the transportation services that make possible the New York region's unique density and economic productivity." Id. " Without the connectivity provided by MTA bridges, tunnels, subways and commuter rail systems, New York would not be able to maintain its place as the economic engine of the state and a center of global commerce, a position it has held for more than a century." Id. at 47.

B. The Differential Toll Policies

Under a system first put in place by the New York State Legislature, and since then adjusted administratively, individuals who are residents of Staten Island, the Rockaways, and Broad Channel receive discounts on the tolls they pay to cross their local bridges. Def. 56.1 ¶ ¶ 36, 38; Pl. 56.1 ¶ ¶ 1-2; Herzog Decl. Ex. AA. For residents of Staten Island, this applies to the Verrazano Bridge, which connects Staten Island to Brooklyn and serves as the only artery connecting the borough of Staten Island with the rest of New York City. Moss Rep. 58. For Rockaway and Broad Channel[5] residents, whose automobile access to the rest of New York City is, in a practical sense, limited to two bridges--the Marine Parkway Bridge, which connects the Rockaways to Brooklyn, and the Cross Bay Bridge, which connects the Rockaways to Broad Channel and thus, effectively, to Queens,[6] see Moss Rep. 58--the discount applies to those bridges.[7]

Page 326

1. The Staten Island Resident Discount Program

Staten Island residents who use the E-ZPass system pay $6.36[8] per trip across the Verrazano. Herzog Decl. Ex. Z. By contrast, non-residents of Staten Island using E-ZPass pay $10.66 to cross the bridge. Id.; see also Def. 56.1 ¶ 39. For Staten Island residents who do not use the E-ZPass system, the token fare is $8.53; a non-resident paying cash must pay $15. Herzog Decl. Ex. Z. The toll for the round-trip crossing of the Verrazano is collected in the Staten Island-bound direction. Herzog Decl. Ex. Z; see also Def. 56.1 ¶ 39.

2. The Rockaway Resident Discount Program

For residents of the Rockaways and Broad Channel, the toll fares over both the Marine Parkway Bridge and the Cross Bay Bridge are reduced. Def. 56.1 ¶ 36; Herzog Decl. Ex. AA. A Rockaway or Broad Channel resident using E-ZPass pays $1.31 to cross either of those bridges and, in the case of the Cross Bay Bridge, receives a rebate for that entire sum. Herzog Decl. Ex. Z. A non-resident using E-ZPass, by contrast, pays $2. Id.; see also Def. 56.1 ¶ 39. For residents who do not use E-ZPass, a token costs $1.79; for non-residents, a token costs $2.50 or paying cash costs $3.75. Herzog Decl. Ex. Z.

The Resident Discount Programs are summarized in the chart below:

Staten Island and Rockaway Resident Discount Programs

Non-Resident

Non-Resident

Resident With

Resident With

With E-ZPass

With Cash (or

E-ZPass

Tokens

Tokens)

Verrazano-

$10.66

$15.00

$6.36 (up to two

$8.53

Narrows

trips per

Bridge

month)/$6.00 (three

or more trips per

month)

Marine

$2.00

$2.50 (with

$1.31

$1.79

Parkway-

token); $3.75

Gil Hodges

(with cash)

Memorial

Bridge

Cross Bay

$2.00

$2.50 (with

$1.31 (rebated

$1.79

Veterans

token); $3.75

entirely)

Memorial

(with cash)

Bridge

C. The Plaintiffs

Riva Janes (" Janes" ) is a resident of New Jersey who, during the relevant period, regularly traveled over the Verrazano Bridge to visit her parents in Brooklyn. Pl. 56.1 ΒΆ 10; Herzog Decl. Ex. H (" Janes Dep." ) 41, 69-70. During these trips, Janes frequently took her parents, who were essentially homebound, shopping for groceries, clothes, and ...


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