Carpooling Discouraged at George Washington Bridge
June 27, 2012
The George Washington Bridge, which connects Fort Lee, New Jersey, to Manhattan, is one of the world's busiest spans. It is also the Port Authority's main moneymaker, providing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Interestingly, the Authority's recent hikes in tolls to cross the bridge have created a cat-and-mouse game between local police and those who would flout the Authority's control, says the Wall Street Journal.
To many commuters who use the bridge, the pull-over practice smacks of highway robbery. Tolls rose in September to $9.50 for E-ZPass customers and $12 for those paying cash, and will each rise $3 more by 2015. However, 4 percent of commuters are taking advantage of a carpooling rule that provides a $6 reduction in the toll for those drivers with two passengers.
With the toll hikes, more drivers are picking up hitchhikers before the bridge in a mutually beneficial relationship: drivers save money, and hitchhikers save time. In response, local police are cracking down on the practice.
- Citing a safety concern regarding impromptu ride-sharing, police harass drivers seen picking up hitchhikers at locations like bus stops.
- They operate by asking the driver numerous questions about the passenger in order to confirm that they do not actually know each other.
- In order to issue a citation (picking up hitchhikers, after all, is perfectly legal), police typically nitpick the driver's behavior by writing them up for an illegal lane change or stopping at a bus stop.
- These citations are usually in the range of several hundred dollars.
In response to what bridge-users view as the Port Authority lining its own pockets with tolls, several community activists have banded together to form the Carpoolers, an interest group dedicated to lobbying against what members view as police harassment.
Interestingly, the Carpoolers organization has already gained a key advocate, Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich, who last October went as far as to designate a specific parking lot where drivers and walkers could meet to arrange transportation.
Source: Spencer Jakab, "At Famous Hudson River Crossing, Picking up Hitchhikers Takes a Toll," Wall Street Journal, June 13, 2012.
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