The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey approved toll and fare hikes on its bridges, tunnels and trains Friday, with the first $1.50 toll increase to take effect next month.
Nine of the 12 commissioners were present for the agency's board meeting at its Manhattan headquarters. They voted unanimously for the increases.
E-ZPass drivers will pay $9.50, up from $8, on bridge and tunnel crossings starting next month. Then, beginning in 2012, tolls will go up by 75 cents each December through 2015. Drivers without E-ZPass face the same hike plus $2 extra.
The $1.75 fare to ride the PATH train will increase 25 cents a year for four years.
The Port Authority originally proposed much higher increases, angering commuters.
The modified plan came late Thursday from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
In a letter to Samson and Grayson, Cuomo and Christie said they recognized the Port Authority's need for new revenue in order to complete crucial transportation projects in the area.
The revised plan means $5 billion less in revenue for the the authority and that some projects will be delayed, including the construction of a garage for Port Authority buses in Manhattan to avoid unnecessary trips back to New Jersey. The replacement of airport terminals at LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports will also be delayed.
Many commuters on the PATH train from Manhattan to Jersey City Friday morning were well-aware that the Port Authority was voting on a fare increase that would soon affect their pocketbooks. The general mood was one of frustration, but resignation, at the inevitability of the increase.
Shaun Brown, 41, commutes from Westchester County each day and takes the PATH train to her job at a financial company in Jersey City.
"I think it's getting to be too expensive, especially for a number of folks who are on a fixed budget," Brown said. "I was hoping they wouldn't raise fares, but I'm sure they will. We're caught between a rock and a hard place; it's the lesser of two evils, I guess."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, speaking on WOR Radio's "John Gambling Show," said the hikes were necessary.
"I can tell you what the effect would be if they didn't raise the tolls," Bloomberg said. "The bridges eventually would fall down. We wouldn't be able to make the commute better and let business go back and forth under the river and over the river. If you want services you have to pay for them."
The way the Port Authority seemed to spring the increase on the public, suddenly arguing the agency was in dire financial shape, did not sit well with Shahrokh Saeed, 40, who commutes from Long Island to his job as an analyst at a pharmaceutical company in Jersey City each day via PATH.
"The fare keeps increasing, yet they (The Port Authority) don't ever seem to know what their costs are," he said.