|Photos of traffic heading into the Lincoln Tunnel in Weehawken from The Star-Ledger, above, and NJ.com, below. The top photo shows commuter buses (left of the barrier) in the exclusive bus lane (XBL) on Route 495, linking the turnpike to the tunnel.|
By VICTOR E. SASSON
HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Commuters aren't the only New Jersey residents who will be affected when congestion fees are imposed this year on drivers venturing south of 60th Street in Manhattan.
Broadway theater goers who drive into the city for Wednesday matinees, and members of clubs who gather for monthly lunches in midtown also will be affected, unless they take the bus and walk to the venue, as I do.
"Under a similar plan put forward by a [New York State] task force last year, drivers [would be] charged $11.52 for passenger cars and $25.34 for trucks," The New York Times reported in February.
A congestion fee of $2.50 already is tacked onto taxi rides, and Uber users are paying $2.75 more for trips that begin, end or pass through south of 96th Street in Manhattan.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo "is banking on congestion pricing to generate $15 billion for repairs and improvements to the transit system through 2024," The Times said, or, he has warned, subway riders could be hit with a 30 percent fare hike.
A congestion fee also is expected to cut traffic congestion, improve air quality and prompt drivers to switch to mass transit.
Not a right
The plan to impose congestion fees tells New Jersey drivers, especially those going solo in enormous gas-guzzling SUVs, that commuting to Manhattan isn't a constitutional right.
These drivers ignore mass-transit options -- and bumper-to-bumper waits at the Hudson River tolls that have ballooned to 90 minutes on some days -- as well as Manhattan's high parking fees.
Many likely are receiving subsidies from their employers to defer the enormous cost of driving to work and parking in the city, compared to taking NJ Transit or a ferry.
|Bumper-to-bumper traffic at the George Washington Bridge tolls in Fort Lee. This photo, from Drew Angerer of Getty Images, appeared on the New York Daily News site. Waits of 90 minutes are not unusual.|
Credit for tolls?
The Times story on Feb. 19 said some drivers would receive "a credit," if they "use already tolled tunnels or the Henry Hudson Bridge from the Bronx to enter Manhattan."
"Drivers crossing the Brooklyn Bridge and headed directly north on the FDR Drive past 60th Street would not have to pay," the newspaper reported.
So, does that mean New Jersey drivers who pay a toll at the Lincoln Tunnel or George Washington Bridge also will get a credit?
The Times didn't say.
The Record weighs in
Transportation writers at my local daily newspaper have never met a driver they didn't like.
On the other hand, Staff Writers John Cichowski and Curtis Tate of The Record and their editors have never, as far as I know, fretted over a struggling trans-Hudson public transit system in one of the world's most congested metropolitan areas or called for its expansion.
Those reporters and opinion writers at the once-great daily -- now a Gannett rag based in Woodland Park -- may be kowtowing to car dealers and makers, whose advertising helps keep NorthJersey.com and the print edition afloat despite declining readership.
In a Page 1 story on Feb. 6, Tate warned that New Jersey commuters who pay Hudson River tolls to drive into the city "could face a double whammy that New York drivers coming into Manhattan from the outer boroughs would not."
But he doesn't say New Jersey drivers can reduce the impact of congestion pricing by carpooling or cut their commuting costs dramatically by switching to mass transit.
The clunky headline:
The cash toll at the three Hudson River crossings is $15 (collected going into the city), $12.50 with an E-ZPass tag during peak hours (weekdays 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.) and $10.50 off-peak.
Tate doesn't bother giving the E-ZPass carpool discount of $6.50 at all hours -- weekends, too --as long as there are 3 people in the vehicle.
The Port Authority told The Record 43.2 million passenger vehicles crossed the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey into Manhattan last year, but Tate doesn't say how many of those were then driven south of 60th Street into the planned congestion zone.
The Lincoln Tunnel was used by 14.4 million vehicles going to Manhattan, and 13.1 million used the Holland Tunnel, Tate said.
Will N.Y.C. be first?
New York would be the first U.S. city to adopt congestion pricing, but central London put a fee into effect in 2000.
Stockholm, Milan and Singapore also employ similar charges.