Now is the time to put our foot on the gas. Immediately after our original alert (below) of August 16th, comments began flowing in to the Port Authority website opposing the plan to spur a massive increase in revenue through bridge and tunnel toll increases. Part of that revenue increase comes from reducing current toll discounts for E-ZPass holders.Speaking of accelerating our efforts: With this update, we have expanded the alert beyond members in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut to those in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Delaware and Maryland. Commenters don’t have to live in the New York tri-state area, or have an E-ZPass account. The opinions expressed by anyone who may have the opportunity to use Port Authority infrastructure (e.g., crossing the George Washington Bridge that is part of I-95) will be considered since a cash toll increase will affect them.If you have a non-NY/NJ E-ZPass account, the proposed plan will eliminate the toll discount you are now receiving, which has been the same as for someone holding a NY/NJ E-ZPass account. For example, a commuter from Pennsylvania would pay up to 52 percent more under the proposed increases for each trip over the GW Bridge!The volume of written comments has mushroomed over the past three weeks, going from 20 pages to over 250. That’s not only thanks to your responses; bus companies have also been encouraging their passengers to write in to help avoid related fare increases.
Steve Carrellas, the NMA’s New Jersey Director of Government and Public Affairs, notes that published comments do not identify the name or email of the sender; only the comments are made public. That may make more people comfortable expressing their opposition to Port Authority rate increases.
The information that follows from the original alert is a thorough guide on submitting effective comments that will grab the Port Authority’s attention. If you haven’t commented already, please follow through by the looming September 13th deadline. What is important at this closing stage of the comment period is the volume of responses, so any received that oppose the toll increases will be helpful, even if just a few sentences long.
Repeated from below if you are ready to object to the proposal right this moment: Written comments can be submitted electronically on the comment form. Only name, e-mail address, and the comment – up to 1,000 characters including spaces – are required. Don’t enter anything for affiliated organization.
P.S. For those interested in reading some of the public comments, go to the Public Hearing Process page, and scroll down to Public Hearing Documents #4, Written Comments. When you click on that line, a PDF file showing all the comments will be available to you.
The Port Authority is a self-funded, independent agency that does not rely on taxpayer dollars or funding from the states of New York or New Jersey. While the Port Authority generates non-toll and non-fare revenues through third-party fees, rentals, and other charges to businesses operating at its facilities – which currently represents over 65% of Port Authority annual revenue – these sources are not considered enough to cover the full cost of building and operating the Port Authority’s facilities. Therefore, the Authority obtains additional funding from tolls, fares, fees, and other charges.All documents and process information made available by the Port Authority on these proposals can be found on the Authority’s Toll Fare Hearing page. The key motorist-related information is summarized below.Inflation-Based Toll Increases
The toll proposal contains the first inflation-based toll increases to the agency’s six bridges and tunnels since 2015 (i.e., Outerbridge Crossing, Goethals Bridge, Bayonne Bridge, Holland Tunnel, Lincoln Tunnel, and George Washington Bridge). The Port Authority’s last specific annual toll increases were in the years 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. The automatic increases are triggered when the cumulative impact of inflation on existing toll rates reaches $1, as measured from the last increase.The cumulative impact of inflation is prompting an increase of the cash/toll by mail rate at all Port Authority crossings from $15 to $16, as of January 5, 2020. The E-ZPass peak discount for cars will be reduced from $2.50 to $2.25; and the E-ZPass off-peak discount will be reduced from $4.50 to $4.25. Peak hours are M-F from 6 to 10 am and 4 to 8 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 9 pm. The Authority believes that the high level of E-ZPass usage (over 85%) no longer warrants the level of discount to incentivize adoption.The above toll changes are presented in tabular form below:
|Select Tolls at Port Authority Bridges & Tunnels|
|Vehicle Type||Existing Off-Peak||Proposed Off-Peak (2020)||Existing Peak||Proposed Peak (2020)|
PATH Fares and AirTrain Fares at JFK and Newark Airports will also increase. See Proposed Tolls & Fares Schedules pdf for complete details of all tolls, fares, and fees.After 2020, tolls will again be adjusted when the cumulative inflation increase reaches $1, prompting an increase in the cash/toll by mail rate by another $1. At that time, the car E-ZPass toll discount would be reduced by an additional $0.25. Thereafter, inflation-based adjustments will be applied to all elements of the toll charges.
Additionally, the proposal calls for three other changes in the toll structure at bridges and tunnels: 1) Following other tolling agencies in the region, limit E-ZPass toll discounts to users registered with a New York or New Jersey E-ZPass Customer Service Center account; 2) Discontinue the Carpool Discount program (e.g., a $6.50 toll) in preparation for eventual all-electronic tolling at all crossings and to address safety concerns; and 3) Modify the NY/NJ Staten Island Bridges discount program to target commuters by increasing the qualifying trips to 10 per month. All details for items 2) and 3) can be found in the Proposed Tolls & Fares Schedules pdf.
Written comments can be submitted electronically on the comment form. Only name, e-mail and the comment are required and there is room for 1,000 characters of text, including spaces, and the ability to upload a Word or PDF document up to 20M. Don’t enter anything for Organization/Affiliation.
In addition, written comments can be mailed to:
Public Hearing Comments
4 World Trade Center
150 Greenwich St, 23rd Floor
New York, NY 10007
Written comments will be accepted through 11:59 pm, September 13, 2019.
In the interest of transparency, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey posts written comments on its website, with necessary redactions made of commenter’s name and personal details. If you prefer a different course, please indicate in the comment of your preference not to post.
Preparing Your Response
Since the volume of comments opposing the bridge and tunnel toll increases will have an impact, any response in opposition will be helpful even if it is just a few sentences. You don’t have to be a user of these facilities to comment. If you don’t use them, mention how the high cost is keeping you away. If you have used any of them, reflect your personal experiences, especially the financial and service impacts if you are a periodic user.
The proposed changes may not look like much on the surface, but here’s how they stack up. The increase in the cash toll is 6%; the peak E-ZPass rate increases 10% and the off-peak E-ZPass rate increases by 12%. In less than 10 years, off-peak E-ZPass rates will have increased by 57%. That’s mostly thanks to the exorbitant and non-transparent four annual increases experienced from 2012 to 2015. If you factor just inflation from 2011 to 2020, the off-peak rate would now be approximately $8.75 instead of the proposed $11.75.
In addition to personal experience, as applicable, here are several points about the variety of motorist-impacting issues. Select a few and put them in your own words as your comment.
- Increasing tolls based on inflation, now or in the future, undermines the public review process and the Port Authority’s own financial review process to determine appropriate and fair toll rates.
- The tunnels, bridges, and terminals are operating with a sizable profit. According to the projected 2019 Port Authority budget, tunnels, bridges, and terminals are operating with over $300 million in free cash flow. So why are motorists being asked to pay more?
- Traffic volume on the facilities has continually increased while service performance has deteriorated. Should motorists pay more for poorer service?
- Since E-ZPass users make toll collection more efficient and contribute to reduced congestion, why increase their costs?
- The Port Authority’s long-standing practice of providing all E-ZPass users the same E-ZPass rate ensured fairness and parity for all drivers while maintaining interoperability. Now they want to force all those without a New York or New Jersey E-ZPass account to pay the high cash rate just because other toll agencies do similarly. For example, a commuter from Pennsylvania would pay up to 52% more under the proposal for each trip over the George Washington Bridge. This is an extremely unfair practice and unjustly targets out-of-state drivers.
- The carpool discount provides a great incentive to travel with others and reduce the overall number of cars using Authority facilities and feeder roads and highways. The Port Authority should be facilitating safe ways to accommodate this practice and should not even consider discontinuing the program until after all-electronic tolling is implemented. For that matter, the Authority should find an innovative way to detect carpools with all-electronic tolling to charge the incentive rate.