Port Authority board discussing toll and fare hikes, controversial airport tax

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- There were protests and outrage Thursday as the Port Authority board members met to discuss a new proposal to raise fares and tolls as well implement a controversial airport tax for taxis and app-based for-hire vehicles.

The proposal aims to raise $235 million to pay for airport and other infrastructure improvements.

It includes:

--Increasing tolls by $1 at the George Washington Bridge, Lincoln Tunnel, Holland Tunnel, Outerbridge Crossing, Goethals Bridge, Bayonne Bridge, from $15 to $16
--Increasing Air Train fee from $5 to $7.75
--E-ZPass peak discount to be reduced from $2.50 to $2.25, off-peak discount to be reduced from $4.50 to $4.25
--PATH base fare will remain $2.75, but multi-trip discount to be reduced
--Adding a $4 per ride "ground access fee" for airport pickups in taxis and app-based for-hire vehicles, as well as a $4 drop off tax only for Uber/Lyft.

"We recognize that toll and fare increases are painful," Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton said. "None of these recommendations were taken lightly. The recommended increases are needed."

The board could vote on the proposal as early as November, after a series of public hearings are held.

The union representing Uber and Lyft drivers immediately slammed what they called an "unfair airport tax."

"The new fee is just the latest in a series of unfair taxes that tax the labor of app-based drivers at a higher rate than taxis, and it comes on the heels of a new state congestion tax of $2.75 per trip on app-based trips and $2.50 on taxi trips," the Independent Drivers Guild said in a statement. "The war on professional drivers needs to end."

The New York Taxi Workers Alliance also weighed in on the proposal.

"Drivers across this industry are in the worst crisis in generations, barely surviving, and an agency with mismanaged funds now wants to steal the food off their tables," NYTWA Executive Director Bhairavi Desai said. "This fee -- on top of a devastating $2.50 congestion surcharge in Manhattan and after a 36% drop in revenue for yellow cab drivers -- appears manufactured at the state level to wipe out a sector that has kept the airports moving for decades. Drivers are in crisis, but the Port Authority underestimates our resolve. If they want a fight, they got one. Drivers: get ready to shut down the airports."

The changes would take effect at varying times between this November and late 2020 and are subject to the Port Authority board's approval

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