The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is slowing down plans to eliminate its carpool discount at Hudson River crossings, like the George Washington Bridge, amid backlash from New Jersey commuters, Gov. Phil Murphy and recently U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer.
“The Port Authority believes, for safety, efficiency, and environmental reasons, transitioning to cashless tolling will have a positive impact on our customers, our facilities, and the region. But we’re also listening when our customers speak up,” the bi-state agency said in a Wednesday morning statement.
“That’s why this week we are bringing before our board a proposal to phase out the carpool discount at the Hudson River crossings only as each facility actually implements cashless, all-electronic tolling.”
The Port Authority is scheduled to vote on the measure at its Thursday Board of commissioners meeting, weeks before it was originally scheduled to end the discount.
For years, commuters have utilized the savings to pay $6.50 at the bridge, rather than the standard $15 rate.
“I am thrilled that the Port Authority has listened to my concerns, as well as those of the commuters, advocates, and elected officials, and will offer a revised plan for a board vote that will maintain the discount while the Port Authority investigates how to implement the discount once cashless tolling is installed at all of its crossings,” Murphy said in a Wednesday morning statement.
Commuters heading into Manhattan from New Jersey use either the George Washington Bridge and Hudson and Lincoln tunnels, all of which are expected to have cashless tolling up and running by early 2021 for a $240 million price tag.
With the implementation of cashless tolling, officials contend, the discount would not work because toll workers would not be physically present to count how many occupants are in a car.
But Gottheimer and U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell – both New Jersey Democrats – pushed back, arguing that this kind of technology is already being used in California, along with pilot programs in Massachusetts and Georgia.
But Port Authority rebuffed, and according to spokesperson Steve Coleman, “there is no broadly accepted technology that can accurately and reliably count occupancy in an open-road tolling system.”