Port Authority Trolls GWB: Police Hunt Down, Ticket Impromptu Carpoolers

The Port Authority wants your full $12

Commuters crossing the George Washington bridge may be helping the environment and their fellow man by picking up pedestrian comrades, but they also risk running afoul of the money-grubbing Port Authority.

The ride-share system, in which car-driving and on-foot commuters meet at the foot of the bridge in a mutually beneficial arrangement that allows drivers to travel in the carpool lane (thereby saving cash) and hitchhikers to skirt the $2 fare and the inconvenience of waiting for the jitney, is a well-established tradition of commuter cities. As tolls rise on the Port Authority’s crossings, it has only grown more popular.

Given Americans’ general reluctance to be both environmentally-friendly and community-minded, you might think such a system would win accolades from the powers that be. But there have been no accolades for these paragons of accommodation and adaptation, The Wall Street Journal reports. Only tickets.

The Port Authority, enraged at the congenial, inventive way to skirt the full $12 bridge toll, has taken to pulling over cars, quizzing the occupants about their relationship to one another, then handing out tickets for those who fail to produce a convincing on-the-spot story.

There’s just one small problem—there is no law against picking up strangers, nor have there been any carpool-related crimes. Nonetheless, police are issuing tickets for illegal lane changes or stopping at a bus stop, accompanied by a patronizing “stranger danger” lecture.

Alas, The Journal reports that most cowed drivers will cough up several hundred to pay the citation if it means keeping their driving records clean.

Indeed, the Port Authority has found an ideal population to shake-down: law-abiding cheapskates.

But they may be underestimating their adversaries. These are people who live in Jersey. They not only believe in better value, but they’re willing to put up with living in Jersey to get it. If these people were fainter of heart or weaker of will, they never would have moved there in the first place. Grass roots coalitions are forming. Sympathetic local politicians are getting involved. And these commuters have already taken a huge leap toward embracing public transportation—putting up with other people for the good of the community and for the sake of saving money. The next time the commuter rail tunnel comes up, they may not take no for an answer.

kvelsey@observer.com Port Authority Trolls GWB: Police Hunt Down, Ticket Impromptu Carpoolers