Press Release Article
THE EARLY RETURNS: PORT AUTHORITY RELEASES PRELIMINARY CONGESTION PRICING DATA FOR BRIDGES, TUNNELS AND PATH
Date: Jun 26, 2001
Press Release Number: 92-2001
Two months after the Port Authority adopted a congestion pricing program at its bridges and tunnels, preliminary statistics indicate greater use of E-ZPass, increased use of time-saving PATH QuickCards, and some gains in travel in the off-peak hours.
“These are preliminary results, and it is important not to read too much into them,\" said Port Authority Executive Director Neil D. Levin. \"We are well aware that drivers are seeing no change in rush-hour traffic at the agency’s bridges and tunnels, and it is too early to offer conclusions. But we wanted to make available the data we have, and we will continue to watch and to analyze commuting patterns. It may be the end of the year before we can draw meaningful conclusions.\"
Port Authority Chairman Lewis M. Eisenberg said, \"Our congestion pricing program was not meant to be a panacea for curing the region’s mobility problems. It is simply one step the agency has taken – including promoting mass transit use and fostering an increase in ferry service – to better manage traffic in the bistate region.\"
Congestion pricing is being used as an incentive to encourage travelers to drive outside of the congested peak travel times. It is a component of an overall Port Authority strategy to improve mobility. The bistate agency also is aggressively promoting E-ZPass use, encouraging the development of ferry service, installing new intelligent highway technology to more quickly detect and clear incidents at its crossings to reduce traffic delays, and buying PATH cars and upgrading the rapid transit system’s signal system to increase service reliability and encourage mass transit use.
Early analysis of the data shows the following:
· E-ZPass use – one of the most powerful tools to improve overall mobility – is up from 52 percent of Port Authority customers in May 2000 to 65 percent in May 2001 for an average weekday. E-ZPass use among truckers rose from 51 percent in May 2000 to 60 percent in May 2001 for an average weekday. The increase in E-ZPass use among automobile drivers since the toll increase public hearings were announced has been more than 5 percentage points, growing from 60 percent of all transactions to more than 65 percent in May 2001. Under the new toll structure, E-ZPass users receive a significant discount from the $6 cash toll.
· Some motorists appear to be shifting from the congested rush hours to off-peak time periods. During a typical weekday in May 2001, 7 percent more motorists used Port Authority bridges and tunnels between midnight and 6 a.m. as compared to a similar day in May 2000. Nearly half of this increase is evident in the 5-6 a.m. hour. In addition, 7 percent fewer motorists traveled during the morning peak period between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. during a typical weekday in May 2001 as compared to May 2000. The 4-7 p.m. peak period also showed a slightly smaller decline in traffic of approximately 4 percent, with significant gains evident in the 3-4 p.m. hour. Overall traffic volumes at the Port Authority have remained relatively stable from May 2000 to May 2001.
· One important component of congestion pricing is to get more trucks to travel during the least congested overnight hours. Between midnight and 6 a.m., 4 percent more trucks used the Port Authority crossings during a typical weekday in May 2001 compared to a similar weekday in May 2000. And 7 percent fewer trucks used the crossings during the morning rush hour between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. Truckers who travel during the overnight hours pay $3.50 per axle if they have E-ZPass, instead of $6 cash or $5 during other off-peak times with E-ZPass.
· Part of the congestion pricing program is to continue to encourage the use of carpools. Between September 2000 and May 2001, the number of carpool transactions has increased by 21 percent. Passenger vehicles with E-ZPass and three or more people pay only $1. The toll pricing plan made carpool pricing available at all times to customers who register for the program through their E-ZPass account.
· On the PATH system, QuickCard use is up from 46 percent weekdays before the fare increase to 70 percent by the end of May, and 79 percent in the peak period. During the past two months, PATH ridership is up 3 percent over last year.
Port Authority Chief Operating Officer Ernesto Butcher said, “We urge our regional employers to encourage their workers to take advantage of the off-peak toll discounts and mass transit alternatives whenever possible. By removing some commuters from the peak period, we can work to improve traffic flow at all of the crossings.”
Ken Philmus, the Port Authority’s Director of Tunnels, Bridges and Terminals, said, “We are cautiously optimistic about the preliminary results we have seen from congestion pricing, but we clearly understand that improving travel conditions for all of our customers is a long-term process. We remain hopeful that the use of congestion pricing, together with the increased use of E-ZPass and use of public transportation to the two Manhattan bus stations we operate, may eventually help to reduce congestion and delays at the bistate crossings.”
PATH Director/General Manager Michael P. DePallo said, “When we began the fare increase, our goals were to encourage mass transit use and increase the use of QuickCard tickets. To date, we have attained both of these goals. Our ridership is up 3 percent during the past two months, and today, 79 percent of our peak period riders use QuickCard tickets, which provide discounts on the $1.50 cash fare and save riders time in getting through the turnstiles.”
Under congestion pricing, the cash toll at the Port Authority’s six crossings – the Goethals, Bayonne and George Washington bridges, the Outerbridge Crossing and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels – is $6. Drivers in cars who use E-ZPass pay $5 during peak periods and $4 off peak. Truckers with E-ZPass pay a $5 per axle toll if they use the crossings during off-peak periods, and $3.50 per axle if they travel during the weekday overnight hours of midnight to 6 a.m.
At PATH, the basic one-way fare is $1.50. Customers who buy an 11-trip QuickCard pay $1.36 per trip; and those who buy 20- or 40-trip QuickCards pay $1.20 per trip. To coincide with the fare increase, PATH expanded the options for riders to buy QuickCards, including additional vending machines and making them available on the Internet.
In addition to reducing congestion, the toll and fare increase supports the Port Authority’s $9 billion, five-year capital program, which will provide funds to maintain and renew bridges and tunnels, install “smart highway” technology to improve traffic flow, purchase new PATH cars and upgrade PATH’s existing signal system.