Port Authority approves less severe toll/fare hikes

August 19, 2011 2:53:43 PM PDT
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has approved toll and fare hikes on its bridges, tunnels and trains, but it's not nearly as much as initially proposed.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released a new plan Thursday that quickly received the public support of the agency's chairman and vice chairman. Nine of the 12 commissioners were present for the agency's board meeting at its Manhattan headquarters. They voted unanimously for the increases.

Tolls for cars using E-ZPass will jump $1.50 in September, then 75 cents in December of each year from 2012 until 2015.

Drivers paying cash will face the same increases, but will also pay a $2 penalty.

Fares on the PATH train will rise 25 cents a year for the next four years. Under the original plan, those fares would have jumped $1 right away.

The vote drew a sharp reaction. Eyewitness News viewers weighed in on our Facebook page.

"You can't go anywhere for free. When does the walking tax go into effect?" wrote Jennifer Logozo Jansen.

"When will enough be enough?" Mimi Pino wrote.

Shaun Brown, 41, commutes from Westchester County each day and takes the PATH train to her job at a financial company in Jersey City.

"I think it's getting to be too expensive, especially for a number of folks who are on a fixed budget," Brown said. "I was hoping they wouldn't raise fares, but I'm sure they will. We're caught between a rock and a hard place; it's the lesser of two evils, I guess."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, speaking on the WOR Radio's "John Gambling Show," said the hikes were necessary.

"I can tell you what the effect would be if they didn't raise the tolls," Bloomberg said. "The bridges eventually would fall down. We wouldn't be able to make the commute better and let business go back and forth under the river and over the river. If you want services you have to pay for them."

The Cuomo-Christie plan called for more modest increases than originally proposed by the Port Authority.

"You can criticize Governor Cuomo and Governor Christie, but they have no choice. They have to act responsibly; they have to get more revenue," Bloomberg said. "Not to do it would be totally irresponsible.

"I'm not happy about it, and it doesn't help commerce, but the alternative would be a lot worse."

Both governors say these increases are only needed because of fiscal mismanagement. They are now calling for an internal audit of the Port Authority.