Testimony of Zoe Baldwin
Port Authority Board Meeting
November 15, 2007
 

Thank you for the opportunity to testify. My name is Zoe Baldwin and I am the New Jersey Coordinator for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a policy watchdog organization working for a more equitable and environmentally sound transportation network in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

It's never easy to ask people to pay more to travel around the region, but in this case, the Port Authority has made a strong case that it needs the additional revenue for infrastructure maintenance and expansion of our transit network. Tri-State would like to voice its support for the proposed toll increases on the Hudson River crossings. The new tolling structure will not only bring in much needed transportation funding, but will also improve transit options, reducing congestion and carbon emissions.

It is expensive to maintain any bridge or roadway, and the Hudson River crossings are some of the most traversed infrastructure in the nation. The expected $300 million in additional revenues that the toll increase will bring will allow Port Authority to assure the integrity of our existing infrastructure and increase the capacity of our passenger and freight networks.

Congestion in the train tunnels under the Hudson severely impedes the ability of Amtrak and NJ Transit to move efficiently between states. Part of the revenue from these toll increases will help fund the new trans-Hudson passenger rail tunnel, ARC, doubling the capacity of cross Hudson NJ Transit service. Improvements from the added tunnel will help move passengers more efficiently, spur economic growth and maintain existing facilities. The new tunnel will reduce congestion by promoting mass transit ridership, and for existing commuters, the quality of trips will improve through better timetables and more timely trains. The new tunnel will also be a huge boost for residents from Southern New York, and northern and northwestern New Jersey, enhancing service on the Montclair/Boonton and Morris/Essex train lines and allowing more one-seat rides from Bergen and Rockland Counties, and will help maintain and purchase new trains for the PATH system.

An important part of the new toll structure is the increase in the peak-hour and off-peak differential. By increasing EZ-Pass tolls to $8 during peak periods, and keeping off-peak tolls at $6, drivers are provided a greater incentive to travel in less congested periods.

Another portion of the $2 increase will fund the first steps toward an entirely cashless, electronic tolling system. Cashless tolls would greatly facilitate the movement of entering and exiting traffic, thus eliminating heavy congestion at these points. Drivers may be paying more, but at least they will be getting something in return in the form of faster commutes.

While we don't support increasing transit fares, it's necessary to point out that PATH riders pay a much lower percentage of the operating costs than other transit riders in the region, such as NYC subway and bus riders. The Port Authority should continue to keep fares as low as possible and to ensure that riders aren't overburdened by paying a large percentage of the system’s operating costs.

The proposed toll and fare increases will be the first increases implemented by the Port Authority since 2001, and the revenue is sorely needed to keep our region moving safely and efficiently. We ask Governor Corzine and Governor Spitzer to support the toll increases and for all our elected officials to focus on the benefits the higher tolls will bring.