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Port Authority votes to raise tolls


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Port Authority votes to raise tolls

By Larry Higgs


January 5, 2008


[float=right]bilde?Site=B3&Date=20080105&Category=NEWS&ArtNo=801050357&Ref=AR&MaxW=318&Border=0[/float]NEW YORK — Port Authority of New York and New Jersey commissioners struck a deal with drivers and PATH train riders — tolls and fares will increase on March 2, but the bite isn't as much as was proposed back in November.


PATH riders scored the biggest break with a proposed $2 fare being reduced to $1.75, up from $1.50. Drivers using the Port Authority's bridges and tunnels didn't fare as well, with peak-hour tolls rising from $6 to $8.


Car poolers and drivers of hybrid vehicles will get a break, with a $2 discount for car poolers and a "green" EZPass for those driving hybrid vehicles, giving a $4 discount for the green machines. Drivers who travel outside the peak commuting hours also will keep receiving a $2 per trip discount.


The increase, unanimously approved by commissioners Friday, is a double-whammy for Chris Bender of Red Bank, who uses the PATH trains, but often has to drive to New York for work.


"It's the price of doing business in the Big Apple," said Bender, out-side the World Trade Center PATH station.


"Tolls are already ridiculous. I use (the bridges and tunnels) for work. It's a necessity (to drive). I have to visit facilities that aren't on the train line."


Port Authority commissioners, in approving the plan, said they discounted the PATH fares to provide an incentive to use mass transit and called the increases necessary to finance the 10-year capital plan and to pay for security improvements needed since Sept. 11, 2001.


The last time tolls and PATH fares were increased was in 2001.


"Certainly from my perspective as a 9/11 widow, I recognize the importance of security measures," said Commissioner Virginia Bauer of Red Bank. "(The need) has been proven and shown to me. We do a lot of homework, and it was proven this was essential for security improvements and funding the capital improvement plan."


Changes to the original toll and fare increase proposal will mean about $200 million less revenue for the capital plan, which will be made up through efficiencies, Port Authority officials said.


"Hopefully, we made a strong case, it was a reasonable toll increase and it was necessary," said Anthony R. Coscia, board chairman.


He estimated that post-Sept. 11 security at bridges, tunnels, airports, the ports and PATH have cost the agency $650 million more annually.


"It was an expense no one could contemplate before the attacks," he said.


The capital plan also addresses "clear deficiencies" in transportation infrastructure, which require billions of dollars to address, Coscia said.


The toll and fare increases support a $29.5 billion capital improvement plan over a 10-year period that includes new rail cars and a high-tech signal system for PATH, rehabilitating the Holland and Lincoln tunnels, improvements to the George Washington Bridge, building a permanent ferry terminal in Hoboken, developing a new Port Authority bus garage and implementing all electronic toll collection.


Also in the package is increased security at the three metropolitan area airports and PATH system; rebuilding the World Trade Center site and Sept. 11 memorial; dredging Port Newark to accommodate larger container ships, and making improvements to the authority's latest acquisition, Stewart Airport, about 60 miles north of New York City.


The first of those improvements, the first new rail cars for the PATH in 20 years, will begin entering service this year, said Port Authority Executive Director Anthony E. Shorris.


Other PATH improvements include lengthening station platforms to allow more riders to use PATH and installing better signal systems that will allow PATH to provide more service, Shorris said.


During the public comment period, which included six public hearings, one on the Internet and comments by e-mail and postal mail, the Port Authority received 255 comments — 135 in support of the toll and fare increases, 117 against and seven comments on unrelated topics, officials said.


The board also approved, for the first time, offering a one-, seven-, and 30-day unlimited PATH pass. Daily PATH commuters who use the 10-, 20- or 40-ride fare card will see an increase from $1.20 to $1.30 per ride, which is consistent with fare pricing on New York City subways.


The one-way tolls affect drivers heading into Manhattan on the George Washington Bridge and through the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. Also affected are people driving into Staten Island on the Goethals and Bayonne bridges and the Outerbridge Crossing.


Future toll and fare increases will be tied to the consumer price index, Coscia said.


"We'll track the CPI and wait until the (increase) rounds up to $1. When it hits, the toll would go up. Drivers will know in advance," Coscia said.


Going to a regular increase, tied to a financial indicator, will make increases more predictable, he said.


That concept didn't sit well with commuters such as Bender.


"What concerns me was changing the way tolls are increased in the future," he said.


Other PATH riders, such as Cliff Leon-Paul of Brooklyn, who was commuting to New Jersey, said the fare increase will be factored into all of the other price increases in his life.


"It affects me somewhat, but the cost of everything is going up," he said at the World Trade Center station. "I don't think the people making the decision think about how it will affect people. They'll do what they have to do to meet a budget."

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Its going to get me as well and I have Ezpass. I come in 3 days off peak and 2 days Peak (Wkend Afternoons). I am just glad I no longer have to use the NJ Turnpike and Verrezono BR.

You have to use I-80 correct? Or I-78?

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