In PA budget, PATH fares up 57 percent

By · Published in 2011

While New Yorkers have seen the MTA raise fares and tolls while cutting service due to a lack of proper investment in transit, the Port Authority is set to do the same. In a sweeping budget unveiled this afternoon, the two-state agency announced a massive increase in fares and tolls in order to fund a variety of capital projects. New Jersey commuters will be paying more — much more — to enter New York City soon.

The structure of the fare increases themselves are fairly straightforward; the reasons behind them are not. But first the former: For PATH riders, the base fare will increase from $1.75 to $2.75 with an aim toward raising the average fare from $1.30 to $2.10. The 30-day unlimited pass will go from $54 to a whopping $89. That’s a 65 percent increase in one felt swoop and would be the equivalent of raising the 30-Day MetroCard from $104 to $170.

Tolls too are going up up up. E-ZPass users will see trips increase from $6 to $10 for off-peak travel and from $8 to $12 for peak-hour trips. An additional $2 increase is planned for 2014. The PA will also implement a cash surcharge of $3, and this move is expected to push the E-ZPass market share from 75 to 85 percent while reducing congestion by 10-20 minutes. A variety of similar increases are planned for trucks.

So now for the tough part: Why the large increase? In its release touting the new tolls, the Port Authority pinpointed three factors. First, the recession has left revenue well below projections. Second, post-9/11 security costs have tripled while the World Trade Center rebuilding has been a drain on the authority. And third, the physical infrastructure is in dire need of upgrades. Without state support, the toll and fare increases then will fully fund a ten-year $33 billion capital plan.

So what do we get for $33 billion? On the subway side of things, the Port Authority has vowed to reinvest all of the funds raised from the PATH fare hikes back into the system. Projects to be funded include an order of 340 new cars, an overhaul of the 100-year-old signal system and duct bank network, new security measures and the rehabilitation of aging systems with an eye toward ensuring that 10-car trains can stop at every station.

Roadwork includes the following:

  • The first replacement of all 592 suspender ropes at the 80-year old George Washington Bridge, the world’s busiest crossing, joining other suspension bridges like the Golden Gate and RFK, which have already replaced theirs. ($1 billion)
  • The replacement of the Lincoln Tunnel Helix. It will require major lane closures and load restrictions if not replaced. ($1.5 billion)
  • The raising of the Bayonne Bridge, which will solve the current clearance problem, preventing post-PANAMAX ships from accessing key ports. ($1 billion)
  • A new bus garage connected to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, which will serve as a traffic reliever to the Lincoln Tunnel and midtown Manhattan streets, saving two-thirds of the empty bus trips that must make two extra trips through the tunnel each day. ($800 million)
  • Significant security investments at the region’s airports, including the installation of security barriers. ($360 million)

The Port Authority will vote on this plan on August 19 with public hearings set for nine locations on August 16.

Reactions have been swift. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign has called upon the PA to scale back the steep PATH fare increases, and the Campaign has laid the blame on the feet of political leaders in New Jersey and New York. Even as the agency has delivered zero-growth budgets in recent years, governors in both states are using the Port Authority as a piggy bank. Says TSTC:

The recent pressures from both New York and New Jersey put the Authority’s finances in a precarious situation. Governor Christie is relying on the Port to contribute $1.8 billion to pay for road and bridge projects that should be paid for by the state’s bankrupt transportation capital program. The Governor canceled one of the country’s most worthy transit projects, the ARC commuter rail tunnel, so he could redirect Port Authority’s monies for that project to his state’s transportation program. Governor Cuomo is banking on $380 million in Port Authority funds to help pay for the remaining three years (2012-2014) of the MTA’s capital program. The MTA has been struggling financially for years in the absence of a sustainable, reliable revenue source such as congestion pricing for the Manhattan core.

Transportation Alternatives, meanwhile, tried to find the silver lining. “Infrastructure forms the bones of a healthy economy,” Paul Steely White, TA’s executive director, said in a statement. “This is a tough but necessary step to get New York City’s crumbling infrastructure back in good repair and invest in a vigorous economy. The Port Authority does not rely on state or local taxes from New York or New Jersey. So these fees – a significant source of the Authority’s revenue – are crucial to the upkeep of the rails, bridges and ports that New Yorkers rely on every day.”

Without investment and the right balance of subsidies and reliance on fare revenue, this budget plan is the outcome. If New York doesn’t learn its lesson, MTA riders could one day be greeted by a similar plan which calls for a one-time fare increase of nearly 65 percent. That’s not a comforting thought for a Friday afternoon.

Categories : Fare Hikes, PANYNJ

35 Responses to “In PA budget, PATH fares up 57 percent”

  1. Anonymoose says:

    Are they also raising rental fees from the airliners?

  2. Marc Shepherd says:

    It should be noted that Port Authority toll and fare increases have been much farther apart than the MTA’s. When you wait too long, then the increase (when it finally comes) is much larger.

  3. Bruce M says:

    Only $89 for a monthly unlimited pass? Sounds like a bargain if you’re an MTA rider.

    • Consider the extent of the New York City subway vs. the reach of the PATH train.

      • Alex C says:

        I consider the dream of handing over SIRT to PATH and extending it via North Shore line to Newark Airport to connect with the rest of PATH (having of course PATH done its hoped-for extension there in the first place)!

    • Marc Shepherd says:

      One big difference is that the vast majority of PATH riders take just two rides a day — to and from work — whereas the MTA unlimited pass is meant for people who use the system much more than that. In fact, if all you do is take two rides every weekday, the MTA unlimited pass is not a good deal, whereas the PATH pass is for precisely that situation.

      • Alon Levy says:

        Yes, and indeed the PATH unlimited monthly is cheaper relative to the base fare: 30-32 single rides, vs. 46 on NYCT.

        (The numbers go up if one factors in pay-per-ride discounts, but those are the same on both systems.)

  4. Mark says:

    What ever happened to the Moses days when an Authority could issue its own bonds and finance capital projects?

  5. Anon says:

    speaking of other systems. you know the problem with CCTV? It can’t shoot back.

  6. SEAN says:

    It may seme crazy, but I like this plan despite the $2.75 PATH fare. If it decreases the number of cars in Manhattan, I’m all for it.

    Something to keep in mind – a few years ago do to finantial concerns the PA’s borrowing costs skyrocketed after 9/11 & now they need to pass some of those costs on to the users. I saw an article on this about 2-years ago & one of the things that was pointed out was despite the PA’s steller reccord on bond payments, Wall Street furms such as Goldman Sacks said the PA was becoming a credit risk without giving any hard evidence. As a result, interest rates went from about 3% to about 20% on borrowed money.

  7. ajedrez says:

    Hopefully, these high tolls result in better service across the crossings, as riders decide to take transit rather than drive. The Goethals and Outerbridge Crossings don’t have a single bus line traveling across them, so driving is the only option to avoid a long, circuitous trip.

    On a side note, what will happen to the carpool discount? Right now, it is $2 to make a round-trip (at least for the Staten Island bridges it is).

  8. Scott E says:

    Wow, those toll hikes are steep! Bringing the GWB cash toll from $8 to $15 could really have repercussions along the entire East Coast. I can’t argue with the projects they need done (I don’t know about the validity of the costs), but driving from NJ to see family in Long Island suddenly got a lot more expensive. Even with E-ZPass.

    • Bolwerk says:

      I’d be curious to see if they’re positive repercussions. Higher tolls could be cheaper for truck freight companies than the fuel that must be wasted waiting to cross the GWB nowadays plus the wages of the truck drivers who are essentially being paid to wait. Chris Ward actually seems to understand the freight is stuck in a lot of gridlock.

      PATH fares going up is bad news, but the tolls probably aren’t.

      • Donald says:

        Why are you so supporitve of tolls going up? Virtually everythig that is delived to NYC comes in on a PA bridge or tunnel. I guarantee you that the toll increase will trickle down to consumers so everything you buy will be more expensive.

        • Bolwerk says:

          No way. Bridge* congestion makes freight service way less punctional. If POVs are paying a higher toll and allowing trucks to get their products delivered faster, it’s very good for consumers. It’s that savings that has the potential to “trickle down.”

          Just think about it for a second. An idling truck is easily wasting gallons of fuel an hour, and someone is sitting in that truck collecting a fairly substantial wage. It’s better to just get the truck and its cargo to its destination as fast as possible.

          * Unless something has changed, most truck comes through the GWB. I don’t think it’s allowed in the Lincoln or Holland Tunnels?

          • Jason B says:

            Also an increase of $10 for tolls (which is way higher than actuality) doesn’t run down horribly to the consumer. That might mean an increase in the actual cost of an item to a store to be about 2 to 5 cents. A truck holds a lot.

            • Bolwerk says:

              Likely less than that for bulk items, if the cost is passed on. It’s just folly to assume it would be, and if the toll is made high enough a savings could be passed on.

  9. Andrew D. Smith says:

    I think there’s a fair chance not only that Christie will veto this but also push for Ward’s ouster for even daring to suggest this, particularly given that these increases have nothing whatever to do with the cost of running these services and everything to do with the fact that the PA is paying four times typical construction costs for Ground Zero. And any assertion to the contrary is simply a lie.

    The Path increases are utterly absurd, and utterly contrary to good transit policy, and while I’d support higher bridge and tunnel tolls at peak hours, when Manhattan has too many cars, there’s no cause to raise them the rest of the time. In fact, it will hurt the city tremendously because these increases really will keep people away. All the crossings should cost money at rush hour and they should all be free (or very cheap) at 2 a.m. The idea is to maximize the utility that people get from your assets (the crossings and the streets of Manhattan) while making users pay the costs, not to gouge people to make up for the PA’s real estate incompetence.

    • Bolwerk says:

      For trucks, there often is no particular peak time. They’re jammed up on the bridge around the clock. I’ve seen it that way NY-bound on Sunday nights. I don’t know what to do about construction labor costs, surely a factor, but much of the additional cost of the WTC has to do with litigation and construction delays, which I’m not sure are entirely the PA’s fault. Politically, I think Christie and Cuomo may have to agree to remove Ward – which I think would be a bad move.

      And I really don’t buy your argument about steep discounts for crossing at extremely off-hours. At least, not for cars. Just because they come in at 2sm doesn’t mean they’re gone by rush hour. You can make the case that the city should get more of the revenue (I would), but there is still a fixed cost for letting people cross and for having them driving around Manhattan, no matter what the time is.

  10. Jon says:

    Is there anything in the next capital plan on taking the next steps on extending the PATH from Newark Penn to Newark Airport. The feasibility study is complete, right?

    • Scott E says:

      I wouldn’t count on it. Everything in this list is necessary maintenance. Any plans for expansion would get shot down in the first budget-review.

  11. BrooklynBus says:

    It’s the old political game ask for one third more than you really expect to get , then everyone is happy when the real increases are finally announced.

  12. Bolwerk says:

    The raising of the Bayonne Bridge, which will solve the current clearance problem, preventing post-PANAMAX ships from accessing key ports. ($1 billion)

    Any word on how rail might be accommodated on the Bayonne Bridge? Perhaps HBLR, as Wikipedia discusses?

  13. Bolwerk says:

    Already hearing about protests.

    Good news though (kind of off-topic for this post): Morris County wants commuter rail service.

    • Scott E says:

      That protest is ridiculous. The organizer is quoted saying the “Port Authority should not penalize the hard working population because, funds are spent on unwanted wars” and is depicted holding a “People of Pakistan We Care” sign. While the hikes – and the war -may be objectionable to many, one has very little to do with the other.

      On the Morris County issue, I currently live in Morris – on the Montclair-Boonton line, and rail service stinks. We have just a handful of trains that go as far as Newark Broad Street (not even Newark Penn Station) in the morning, and a handful that leave in the evening, with no weekend service. It’s also a slow ride — but I understand why. These lines were built as freight lines to slowly meander around hills and water while hitting the formert industrial hubs along the Morris canal and other bodies of water. Consequently, ridership is low, as exhibited by the vacant parking lots. Perhaps increased service would help; but the bus routes, which follow direct highways, get you to midtown NYC in about half the time, are a better option.

      • ajedrez says:

        I don’t think the Montclair-Bontoon Line is capable of going to Newark Penn Station. It would have to somehow switch onto the Newark Light Rail tracks.

        In any case, aren’t those trains generally timed with NY-bound trains at Broad Street?

  14. Rational Plan says:

    A transit agency has is still a company and has to balance it’s books. It can raise revenue or cut costs. In one sense it’s lucky for New York and New Jersey that so many people use transit everyday. It’s much more politically difficult to slash services compared to the rest of America.

    So it’s back to revenue, if State governments were willing to consistently fund transit, then, in theory no problem. But you don’t live in such a country and even if you did the current budget crunch would still effect you. Oh the curse Americas big cities suffer from because nearly all the state capitols were deliberately set up far from their primate city.

    Well that only leaves them user fees. At the end of the day a transit system should run with as little a subsidy as possible. If it can cover it’s running costs from revenue then it is only subject to the political boom and bust for capital investment.

    It’s what happens in the UK, most bus systems run at a profit, various councils provide subsidies for child fares or running services in extremely rural areas or late night services in smaller towns. It’s not perfect though, fares are high but here at least Gas is even higher and parking is expensive and difficult almost anywhere in the UK.

    • ajedrez says:

      The thing is that in the NY region, fares are very expensive compared to the rest of the country, when the cost per passenger is cheaper here. The transit agencies know they pretty much have a captive audience and raise the fare higher than other agencies in the country. There are still agencies that have fares as low as $1 for their systems.

      Of course, like you said, the transit users here are more powerful than elsewhere in the country.


  1. […] the Port Authority dropped its new budget on Friday afternoon, the prices were shocking. The proposal — designed to fund a ten-year, […]

  2. […] the Port Authority announced its new budget on Friday, the New York City transportation scene has been a-flutter with interesting takes on the […]

  3. […] “toll and fare payers’ economic realities,” and it represents spending cuts over the previous version as well. Instead of a $33 billion capital plan for 10 years, this new one covers the same time span […]

  4. […] seen a somewhat similar drama play out with the Port Authority. A few weeks ago, the PA proposed a massive increase in tolls and fares, and the proceeds were to go toward an ambitious ten-year capital plan that would have improved […]

  5. […] real estate developer and holding company, it may not have the money or capacity to realize its ambitious capital plan. Navigant is urging further examination of the plan and […]

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>