FORT LEE, New Jersey — It's a practice that's been in place for nearly a half century, and over the course of that time, it's been proven to help the environment, reduce traffic, and lower costs.
A discount in tolls for carpool vehicles across the George Washington Bridge — the world's busiest bridge — is set to end on January 5th, if the Port Authority has its way. Actions by commuters and members of Congress from New Jersey hope to stop the change.
Currently, a carpool vehicle — one with three or more passengers — pays a $6.50 toll. Any other vehicle with E-Z Pass, off-peak, pays $10.50. During peak hours, the E-Z Pass rate goes up to $12.50, and when paying with cash, a vehicle is charged $15.00.
All of those rates are set to increase next year, when cashless tolling will be implemented in all lanes. Because there will no longer be toll takers to count passengers, the Port Authority says, it can't keep the carpool discount.
Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a North Jersey Democrat, said that the Port Authority's claim does not hold up.
"California, Georgia and Massachusetts have the technology," the congressman told PIX11 News. "They can tell [the number of commuters], so people can get the carpool rate," Gottheimer said.
To clarify, the Port Authority said, in a statement, "There is no broadly accepted technology that can accurately and reliably count occupancy in an open-road tolling system. If reliable technology becomes available in the future," the statement continued, "we can revisit the decision to discontinue the carpool discount. We look forward to meeting with the congressman in the near future to discuss the issue in more detail."
Gottheimer and Rep. Bill Pascrell, a fellow North Jersey Democrat, had sent a letter to the Port Authority seeking a meeting regarding the issue.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has also expressed support for retaining the carpool discount, but no plan for discussions between him and the Port Authority have been scheduled.