I have a non-political question about the GW Bridge and other similar bridges

I have followed the Chris Christie “Bridge-gate Scandal” with amusement. I am fascinated by the pictures of the toll plaza on the western end of the bridge.

Why is the toll plaza so huge with traffic backed up (aside from the lane closures at the heart of the scandal)? Here in Texas, the main lanes of any tolled freeway or bridge has an archway that reads RFID tags attached to cars. You can zip right through at 80+ miles per hour as you pay your toll. In Austin, none of the toll roads even take cash or change. If you don’t have a toll tag, the system takes a picture of your license plate and sends you a bill. (The bill is a bit higher than the tag rate, but it isn’t high like a penalty fine.) This is advertised as “Pay By Mail”, though you actually can pay via a website.

So, why isn’t this technology deployed on the George Washington Bridge and other similar bottlenecks? Since there are many states and provinces in fairly close proximity to the GWB, the “Pay By Mail” system may be too complicated to work efficiently, but couldn’t people who use the bridge regularly simply get a tag and speed on by the plaza?

Also, why are the fine people of Fort Lee restricted to only three paltry lanes at the toll plaza in the first place? Even without shenanigans from the Governor’s Office, doesn’t that create a bottleneck on the best of days?

There are EZ-Pass transponders available for motorists to bypass toll booths for both bridges and turnpikes. They work in many states (NOT Texas, by the way) and all states in the NE. They’re blue boxes maybe the size of a cigarette pack that stick to the inside of your windshield.

What always amused me is that there are NO tolls if you’re entering New Jersey. It doesn’t matter if you’re coming from PA or NY, there are no tolls. On the other hand, all the exits from NJ to PA or NY have tolls. I guess they figure that if you had to pay to go to NJ, you’d never go there and that once you’re in NJ, you’d be more than willing to leave.

Open road tolling as you describe is much less common in the Northeast’s much older toll facilities, and is only very slowly being added on. The New Hampshire toll roads have just added full speed EZPass lanes with those paying cash exiting to traditional booths.

The mainline tollbooth for the GWB is in Ft. Lee. The toll plaza in question is a separate structure for vehicles entering I-95 northbound from Ft. Lee immediately before the bridge. As such, commuters from that town are more heavily effected.

Most of the toll road in Texas seemed to be geared for commuters. In the Northeast you have a lot more of people from outside the area driving them, either their own cars or rentals. You get absolutely and completely reamed if you use toll-by-plate in a rental car, though that didn’t stop Florida from doing it (I guess the soak the tourists mentality there). Around $35.00 to drive from Miami to the Keys and back for the week, tolls for locals are less than $3.00

Older infrastructure from the time of all manned booths + limited space to build new facilities. Also for such a bridge perhaps the need for high speed payment is not seen as a benefit, however higher speed payment tolls do exist in the NE US, mainly on tolled highways, not so much river crossings.

As stated there are some EZ pass lanes, but that was just retrofitted into the old design.

At most times of the day, the center of GWB is packed and traffic is moving slowly. Adding a lane to pay at 80 mph is going to be useless if the traffic beyond the toll booth is only going 25 mph. The high speed lanes only work where traffic is fairly sparse, which is not the case at any of the Hudson River crossings.

Until a few decades ago, tolls were in both directions. Then they realized that by doubling the toll in one direction, and dropping the toll in the other direction, much of the traffic would simply evaporate in the free direction. And almost no revenue is lost, because this was done uniformly to all five NJ-NY connections. Consider it a round-trip toll, paid just once, either at the beginning or at the end. If you go free in one direction, you’ll have to pay in the other direction. The only way to avoid it is by crossing the Hudson on the Tappan Zee Bridge, where the toll is less than half that of the other crossings, but not many people will go that far out of their way.

The OP is making a very-easily-made error, that of presuming that on typical mornings, the traffic is due to the toll booths. That is very rarely the case. When it happens at all, it is on weekends and holidays when only one booth has a human to accept cash, and I concede that the OP’s suggestions would indeed help in those cases.

But on a typical morning, the traffic is NOT because of the toll booths. This is easily proven by looking at Google Traffic of the area, where you’ll see that the traffic starts in NJ, but continues across the bridge and onto the New York streets and highways. In other words, it is simply because of so many vehicles trying to get into New York.

I live in NJ and commute every day over the GWB to Manhattan. I do have EZPass, but it never saves me any time on a regular workday, because the traffic is bumper-to-bumper both before the toll and after it, until I am off the bridge and on a less-congested road.

Those toll-by-plate charges are imposed by the rental companies, not by the toll operators.

Yes, I know that, but it doesn’t make any difference if you’re getting gouged by the toll road or by the rental company because of a the toll road. Anyone that has ever rented a car would know that the rental companies would use it as an excuse to rip off tourists, so if they had to eliminate all the toll takers jobs to save money they should have made a provision like the Golden Gate Bridge where you can pay online rather than sign up for toll by plate. Can you imagine if they had a $35.00 toll booth on the road with a $33.00 discount for locals?

The New York State Thruway (I-87) added full speed EZPass lanes maybe a decade ago. It makes a huge difference, because even a slowdown to the 20 mph or 5 mph of a normal EPass toll lane would cause long backups.

That’s a good solution for the problem at that area. That’s a different problem at a different area, though. New York, Manhattan, is ludicrously small and overflowing. And it’s an island. You can only drive there over a bridge or tunnel. There’s only one bridge, the George Washington, and two tunnels to get there from New Jersey. That’s about a dozen lanes total for over 200,000 cars every day.

You can’t think of this situation in the way you would treat a free-flowing expressway. It’s an hourglass and the entries are the pinch in the middle.

Interestingly enough crossing the Delaware river into NJ the rules are the same, you pay to leave NJ, but free to enter (seems like that should be some form of entrapment, but anyway…)

But besides the Tappan Zee bridge (and northern river crossings) there is another way to ease the toll pain for those on LI including Brooklyn and Queens, leave via the GW (or tunnels) and return over the Verrazano (or some free non-highway NYC bridges). Both are free in that direction of travel. Yes you do pay the exit toll from NJ but save on the MTA toll as the Verrazano charges again one way in the opposite direction of the Port Authority tolls.

It took me some experimentation to figure this one out, and I may still be a bit fuzzy about it. But here’s my current guess:

The GEB often backs up onto the local highways. Rather than plod through slow movement on the highway, many drivers try to leave the highway, and take local streets to get closer to the Bridge. That really messes things up for the local residents, who would have to endure ridiculous traffic from these invading road warriors, when all they want to do is go a half-mile to buy some milk. So the local police strategically close certain roads to force the commuters into particular paths.

For example: Those traveling north on the NJ Turnpike often find a lot of traffic as Rt 95 reaches the GWB. An alternate route is to get off the Turnpike early, and take Route 46 to the GWB. A refinement to this is to get off Rt 46 onto North Ave., and take local streets the rest of the way. And in fact, that’s exactly what Waze told me to do this morning. But the local police routinely block us from that exit, forcing us to say on the highway.

The best route for Fort Lee residents into New York is via Park Ave. to Martha Washington Way. This route is good only for those who have been going north on Palisade. If you try to go east on Main Street, you’ll find this sign, as well as a friendly local policeman, who will prevent you from making that turn during rush hour.

If you’ve come north on Martha Washington like the locals do, you’ll end up here, going through the righmost toll booths, which (as you can see from the traffic cones) are dedicated for people taking that route. What happened in September was that these booths were closed, forcing the locals onto the highway routes, making them even more congested than usual. Worse, the highway drivers – such as myself – were unaware of these changes, and tried to use the local streets to escape the traffic, compounding the problems even more.

[personal rant, which really belongs in GD, I apologize:} It took almost 2 hours longer than usual to get to work that day. And not once did it enter my mind to blame any local politicians. I figured that fault was with an accident, some police activity, or plain bad luck and heavy congestion. But if someone wanted to make local politicians look bad, it failed miserably.

This is very true, and I’ve done this occasionally. The catch is that it depends on which part of Brooklyn/Queens you’re at, because the extra miles to Staten Island might be ridiculous. You get what you pay for.

The GW bridge carries too much traffic most of the time. It bottlenecks after the tolls. One of the worst culprits in the Cross Bronx expressway often backs ups onto the bridge. If a Yankee game is near its start time the entire area really bogs down. Yankee Stadium is nearby.

Not actually true. There are many ways out of NJ without a toll, what is true is all toll routes are pay to exit NJ. Also your joke is old and tired. Did you hear it 10 years ago or 30?

Best username/post combo ever.

I’ve been living in NJ for more than fifty years, and that post was the first time I’d heard it. I never noticed before that the NJ-PA one-way tolls are also for leaving NJ.

But now that I’ve heard it, I’ll tell you this: If I need to leave NJ, I have to pay to do it. Coming home is always free. A fairly good deal, as I see it.

If you’re going from LI to NJ via the GW, you do have to cross either the Whitestone or the Throg’s Neck. Those are tolled both ways, and substantially.

When I lived near Princeton 16 years ago the I95 bridge was free in both directions. The Trenton Makes bridge on route 1 was tolled leaving NJ. Did they establish tolls on 95?

Or the [del]Triboro[/del] Robert F. Kennedy Bridge or [del]59th St[/del] Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, or [del]Battery Tunnel[/del] Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, which are also tolled. Or use the Brooklyn or Manhattan Bridges, which are free – and still have their original names! – but are usually terribly inconvenient. As I said, you get what you pay for.