GWB carpool discount to end… unless last-ditch effort succeeds
FORT LEE — Two congressmen for New Jersey are urging the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to scrap its plan, set to take effect next month, to eliminate the decades-old discount offered to drivers who carpool over the George Washington Bridge.
On January 5, the "carpool plan" will no longer be available on the span, which is slated to switch over that day to cashless tolling.
"I've heard about it from a lot of my constituents; that's why I brought this issue up," said Congressman Josh Gottheimer, D-5. "They're realizing that this is going to be a huge new cost on them in just a matter of weeks."
Gottheimer held a press conference Monday morning near the bridge to announce that he and fellow New Jersey Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr., have sent a letter to the chairman of the Port Authority, asking that the agency "explore all available technology" to allow carpool rates to remain intact.
"We ask that you pause plans to eliminate the current carpool rate until a suitable solution for commuters can be implemented," the letter reads. "We oppose any effort that will force New Jersey drivers to carry the burden of yet another costly toll hike, and one that will weigh entirely on the pocketbooks of commuters, make traffic worse, and contribute to further damage of our already-fragile environment."
The current toll for a carpool vehicle — a non-business vehicle with at least three people inside — is $6.50 around the clock, compared to a standard vehicle's $10.50 off-peak E-ZPass rate, $12.50 peak-hour EZ-Pass rate, and $15 cash rate. When rates jump to $11.75, $13.75 and $16 in January, they will apply to all vehicles, no matter how many people are sharing a ride.
An average New Jersey carpool drivers would pay an additional $2,125 per year in new tolls if the carpool discount were eliminated, Gottheimer said.
Drivers on the carpool plan are currently required to come to a complete stop at a booth so a toll collector can verify the number of vehicle occupants. The implementation of cashless tolling halted carpooling discounts at the Bayonne Bridge in 2017, and at the Goethals Bridge and Outerbridge Crossing in 2019.
In a statement sent to New Jersey 101.5, the Port Authority said there is no broadly accepted technology that can "accurately and reliably count occupancy" in a tolling system that lets cars zoom by.
"If reliable technology becomes available in the future, we can revisit the decision to discontinue the carpool discount," the agency said, noting it looks forward to meeting with Gottheimer to discuss the issue in more detail.
In their letter, the New Jersey congressmen said a number of cashless toll systems in the country are currently utilizing technology with the ability to track multiple passengers. The letter did not speak to the systems' reliability and accuracy.
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