NJ Park and Ride Commuters Risk Tickets to Avoid Tolls

Drivers are parking illegally at overcrowded lots because of higher tolls to drive into the city.

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    New Jersey commuters to New York are risking parking tickets at overcrowded Park and Ride lots in order to avoid sharp increases in tolls so they can ride buses into the city. (Published Friday, March 2, 2012)

    New Jersey commuters to New York are risking parking tickets at overcrowded Park and Ride lots in order to avoid sharp increases in tolls so they can ride buses into the city.

    Three Park and Ride lots along the Garden State Parkway are especially crowded -- at Exit 109, the PNC Arts Center and a Cheesequake rest stop.

    A visit to the lot at Exit 109 Thursday morning found at least two dozen cars illegally parked on grass, in thru lanes, in front of one already filled space and even underneath a sign that read "Warning, violators will be towed."

    Commuter Andy Chokas admitted he once got a ticket for illegal parking that cost him $50 or $60.

    "I'm more than willing to pay what I need to pay," Chokas said.

    Academy Bus rents the three lots from the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and said in a statement: "for years now we have been having discussions with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to resolve the matter."

    An Academy spokesman said the talks have been "unsuccessful" despite its offer to pay for  improvements to the lots. He added that even before a 50 percent hike in Garden State Parkway and NJ Turnpike tolls Jan. 1, demand had climbed by nearly 20 percent on some routes.

    And just this week, the Turnpike Authority released traffic counts since the toll hike two months ago that show fewer motorists took the toll road than in January of last year.

    The authority compared 19 days in January 2011 with 19 days that had similar weather in January 2012, and found that car traffic decreased by 3.5 percent, according to nj.com.

    Turnpike Executive Director Ronnie Hakim told NBC New York that her goal is to work something out for the overcrowded lots.

    When Hakim was asked how soon, she said "I'll be meeting with my folks to see if we can move this along."

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