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Whose Bright Idea Was This? Port Authority Of N.Y. & N.J. Doing Away With Discount Carpool Lanes

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- It's apparently one of the best-kept secrets among some commuters using Port Authority crossings -- the discount carpool plan.

And with all the traffic at the bridges and tunnels, you'd think people would be encouraged to make use of it.

But now, the agency is doing away with it, CBS2's Alice Gainer reported Wednesday.

It has many wondering, who's bright idea was this?

Every day there are commuters in Fort Lee, New Jersey, who meet at a certain bus stop and hop into strangers' cars to carpool across the George Washington Bridge.

"A lot of people use it to get to work, to get to school. I personally use it to get to school," commuter Alexandra Baez said.

Port Authority carpool lane
(Photo: CBS2)

"Well, it works in two ways. If I'm the driver, I'm picking up people that stop there. It saves me, I think it's from $15 it would ordinarily cost to maybe $5 or $6 across the bridge and nine times out of 10 I'm the person getting in somebody else's car," commuter Carol Cooper added.

Drivers make pickups to qualify for the carpool discount. Others organize classic car pools to save money on gas and tolls.

The carpool toll is $6.50, compared to the normal $10.50, $12.50 or $15 depending on the time of day. But now that discount plan is being discontinued with the installation of cashless tolling systems, since there's no toll takers to count passengers.

It's already gone from the Bayonne Bridge and Outerbridge Crossing, with the Lincoln, Holland and GWB to follow by 2021, Gainer reported.

A spokesperson for the Port Authority told CBS2 that only about 3 percent of travelers who use the GWB crossing make use of the carpool plan. The belief is it impacts only a small amount of commuters.

"That may be because they're unaware of it if only 3 percent of drivers are using it," said AAA Northeast spokesman Robert Sinclair.

Sinclair said the Port Authority has never promoted the discount plan much but should to help ease congestion.

"They don't promote it, no. You wouldn't know about it if you didn't live here," Baez said.

The Port Authority would not go on camera, but told Gainer it has safety concerns with people standing on the side of the road hopping into cars.

"Well, perhaps they should make an area, a carpool area, where these things can be done safely," Sinclair said.

The agency also said there's no technology that can reliably count occupancy when it comes to a cashless tolling system.

For those who rely on the carpool plan to affordably commute, they're hoping one manned lane could be maintained to keep the plan in place.

In parts of California, carpool discounts are given to people using FasTrak transponder technology, so there are viable options to continue carpool discounts in the New York City area.

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