No longer will E-ZPass-equipped cars have to slow down as they pass through the tollbooths at the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge along the Henry Hudson Parkway. The MTA last week kicked off its cashless tolling pilot in north Manhattan, and to coincide with the new program, they released the video embedded above.
“There’s a better way to collect tolls in the 21st century, and it’s called all-electronic tolling,” MTA Chairman and CEO Jay H. Walder said during the gate-removal ceremonial. “By removing the gate arms, we begin the process of ushering in this new era in toll collection.”
For now, the pilot will begin with gateless tolling on the E-ZPass side. Three cash lanes will remain open during the gateless part of the trial, and three E-ZPass lanes will be open for cars. The concept behind gateless tolling is both simple and not a new one outside of the confines of New York City. High-speed equipment can read the E-ZPass devices, and those cars who pass through the E-ZPass-only lanes without an E-ZPass will receive a $50 ticket in the mail.
Early next year, the MTA will unveil cashless tolling as well. The camera technology will be in place, and those cars without an E-ZPass will receive an invoice instead of a summons in the mail. The authority says it chose the Henry Hudson Bridge as the pilot for the first-ever fully-automated toll crossing because of its market share. Currently, 85 percent of cars passing over the bridge during the week use E-ZPass, and the ban on commercial traffic on the Henry Hudson Parkway make the pilot easier to manage.
For the MTA, this pilot is a big deal because of the impact a gateless and cashless tolling can have on its operations. Without the need to slow down to pay a toll, traffic will flow smoother through the Bridges & Tunnels crossings thus improving car efficiency and reducing emissions. The MTA can reduce its own toll-collection costs as well.
On a grander scheme, though, gateless, cashless tolling matters because of the way it disarms an anti-congestion pricing argument. As I wrote in September, one of the main contentions from the anti-pricing lobby concerned surface traffic. By installing toll booths, the spurious argument went, the city would contribute to congestion on local streets leading into Manhattan.
Of course, congestion pricing proponents knew that high-speed tolling was a real option, and now everyone will get to see it in action. The anti-congestion pricing congestion argument will disappear right before our eyes.