Why Are More NJ Drivers Picking Up Hitchhikers At The GWB? [POLL/AUDIO]
Now that it costs $12 to cross the Hudson River during the morning rush, a growing number of Jersey commuters have been stopping to pick up hitchhikers, right before they get to the toll plaza at the George Washington Bridge - so they can qualify for the $6 "Carpool Discount."
Lately though, Port Authority police have been ticketing those drivers.
PA spokesman Al Della Fave says this is happening because officers are observing, "commuters literally dive-bombing across several lanes in order to get to the bus stop to pick up additional passengers to qualify for the toll savings…We encourage folks to take advantage of those savings, but they're going to have to make arrangements where they get the added passengers to qualify in a different place - the bus stop is not the place to do it."
He says there is another problem.
"We have individuals that are conducting mini-interviews of those people they intend on picking up - to assure that they are safe. But those interviews sometimes take several minutes, causing bus traffic to back up into the travel lanes…We're working with local officials in Fort Lee to identify a parking lot off the roadway in advance of the toll plaza where people can stop and do that- where they collect their additional passengers and continue on."
Della Fave adds, "It's absolutely simply a safety issue- in no way do we get any revenue from the tickets that we issue…All the fines and fees that are collected on those summonses goes to the local municipality, Fort Lee. We do not see any of that money."
He also points out, "We have seen actually a case where an individual who was on the sex offenders website - was actually one of the individuals who was out soliciting rides from those folks who were looking to add to their number in the car…That's our big concern: Is that you don't know who you're picking up…We would hope the best case scenario is that individuals would be able to develop carpoolers who they know and trust - they know their history - so they'd be able to arrive at their destination safely."
Leonor Javier, the founder of a group called The Carpoolers, doesn't buy it.
She says they're writing the tickets for only one reason.
"Money - do you know how much they're making out of this? It's a lot of money they're making…What they tell us is it's dangerous to pick people up there - because we could be kidnapped…But the police are being unfair - it's a typical harassment case…The traffic over the bridge has diminished lately and the buses going to New York are complaining about us picking up passengers…We've been trying to ask the Port Authority to stop harassing us- to just let it be!"