Bus commuters warned: Hudson toll hikes could mean fare hikes
A proposed bridge and tunnel toll hike from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has private carriers urging bus commuters to oppose the plan.
The Bus Association of New Jersey, which involves five companies that serve the New Jersey and New York region, has launched a website with form letters, which commuters can fill out and send, to take part in the public comment period that ends Sept. 13.
"We are asking commuters to send in their comments, which will hopefully sway them not to raise the tolls on buses or reconsider the amount they want to raise tolls on buses if the toll hike moves forward," the site explains on its homepage.
Current tolls under the last increase (in December 2015) are as follows:
- $12.50 for passenger vehicles using E-ZPass during peak hours ($10.50 during off peak)
- $13 for buses using E-ZPass at all times (seating capacity of 10 or more passengers)
- $15 cash toll for passenger vehicles
The proposed increase in 2020 would raise bridge and tunnel tolls to the following:
- $13.75 for passenger vehicles using EZPass during peak hours ($11.75 during off peak)
- $14 for buses
- $16 cash/toll by mail for passenger vehicles
Peak hours are 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
According to the Port Authority in its June announcement, "After 2020, tolls will again be adjusted when the cumulative inflation increase reaches $1," at which point the cash/toll-by-mail rate would increase by another $1, while the car E-ZPass toll discount would be reduced by another 25 cents.
Association spokesman Sean Hughes said buses help ease congestion on roads by carrying up to 55 passengers at a time, as opposed to a personal vehicle being able to hold no more than four or five commuters at a time.
Hughes also said the price of taking a bus versus one’s own vehicle is $1 to $1.50 cheaper per trip.
The "voter voice" website launched by Bus Association of New Jersey had collected roughly 500 comments in less than a week as of Tuesday, Hughes said.
The proposal is said to be earmarked for the ten-year Port Authority Capital Plan through 2026, which entails a PATH improvement plan ($200 million), electric vehicle infrastructure ($50 million) and planning for Newark Liberty Airport Terminal Two ($35 million) among its projects.
In addition to bridge and tunnel tolls, the Port Authority proposal also calls for:
- PATH multi-trip discount would be reduced effective Nov. 1, (base fare would remain $2.75)
- Fare for AirTrain Newark and AirTrain JFK would increase from $5 to $7.75, effective Nov. 1
- A $4 "ground transportation access fee" would be charged on for-hire vehicles and taxis, effective by mid to late 2020. The ground access fee would be at Newark Liberty International, LaGuardia and JFK International airports.
The Port Authority Board of Commissioners is scheduled to vote on the increases Sept. 26.
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