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Port Authority: We Care About The Environment, But Still Taking Away The Carpool Discount, Hiking Fares

FORT LEE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – As most of the planet moves towards ideas that help the environment, the Port Authority is heading the opposite way.

CBS2 is investigating why carpoolers will no longer have an incentive to share their commute.

Most drivers don't know it, but right now if you have three people in your car and sign up ahead of time, you can pay half price at the George Washington Bridge or Holland and Lincoln Tunnels – and also help reduce wait times.

port authority carpool
(Credit: CBS2)

It's called the carpool discount, but rather than expanding it, the Port Authority is canceling it. One local mom can't afford to commute without it.

"That's going to be a problem for a lot of people," Erieania said.

"It's also really bad for the environment because the carpool is promoting people to take less individual transport," Dillon Chin added.

Why would the Port Authority eliminate a green initiative?

After weeks of evading CBS2 cameras, Meg Baker was finally able to ask that of Port Authority chief Rick Cotton.

"Number one, as we move to cashless and we take the toll collectors away there is currently no way to monitor whether in fact a car qualifies."

Second, Cotton claims, it's a safety issue at the George Washington Bridge.

"Where cars will try to meet up on the roadway with riders in order to qualify."

Cotton says only three percent of people use the carpool lane, but AAA says that equals more than 8,000 cars a day.

CBS2 dissected each of Cotton's answers.

First, until body detecting technology becomes available, one lane at each crossing could continue to be staffed.

"It's a bus stop down the road and it's safe for them. So why is it unsafe for the carpoolers? If they wanted a safe area they could easily build one," Robert Sinclair of AAA said.

Third, few drivers take advantage of the carpool discount because most are unaware of the program, under which the Port Authority takes in less revenue.

"They could promote it. If they had the ingenuity. If they had the will... if they had the desire," Sinclair added.

Despite eliminating the carpool discount, Cotton added "we are completely committed to a sustainability and an environmental imperative."

Drivers wonder if that will include finding a way to keep or even expand the carpool incentive.

The cancelled discount also comes as the Port Authority is planning to hike tolls by 10 percent or more in the next few months.

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