The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) today praised the decision of the New York State Thruway Authority (NYSTA) to consider how toll incentives and transit improvements on the Tappan Zee Bridge could reduce air pollution and traffic congestion while expanding choices for cross-Hudson travel. The NYSTA study has been initiated with support from Rockland and Westchester County officials, environmental, and business groups.
“The Thruway Authority’s decision reflects a positive response to the widespread interest expressed by Rockland and Westchester county communities for more effective traffic management. ‘Incentive pricing ’ helps us have good phone service and cuts our utility costs; it can also help reduce our traffic congestion if combined with better transit choices,” said Jim Tripp, EDF general counsel and chair of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.
In coming months NYSTA will conduct a series of focus groups, a survey of bridge users, and expanded consultation with the public, elected officials, and interested parties in defining the most appropriate strategies for managing and addressing the bridge’s increasingly severe traffic problems before any change in tolls is decided. Over the past decade, two official study groups considering the Tappan Zee’s traffic problems have called for eliminating the commuter discount toll policy, which worsens daily traffic problems. The current toll on the Bridge is $2.50 for the general public, but most daily commuters who travel during the times of maximum traffic congestion pay only $1.00.
“By lowering user fees in times of slack demand and boosting them at other times, incentive pricing has reduced traffic congestion where it has been applied in Europe, and as of December 1995, on a private toll road in Orange County, California,” said Michael Replogle, an EDF transportation expert. “The key to success will be to deliver better value for Thruway customers — more travel options and chances to save money and time while reducing air pollution.”
Over the past year, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a coalition of local and regional environmental groups that includes EDF, Federated Conservationists of Westchester County, and The Regional Plan Association, has joined with the Westchester County Transportation Management Association, which represents major employers, in calling for incentive pricing and improved transit and traffic management in the I-287/Tappan Zee Bridge corridor. These groups recently met with Thruway chair Howard Steinberg to encourage the action announced today by the Thruway Authority. Three-fourths of peak period vehicles crossing the Tappan Zee are already successfully using electronic EZ-Pass to pay their toll without having to stop, saving time and money. This makes it easy to introduce variable pricing and could be used to cut travel delays further by creating special high speed EZ-Pass toll collection lanes.