NJ Turnpike ends out-of-area E-ZPass off-peak discounts
The board of the New Jersey Turnpike voted today to end off-peak discounts for E-ZPass for car drivers with non-New Jersey accounts. So drivers with a Pennsylvania Turnpike, New York or Maryland E-ZPass and a PANYNJ account will pay full toll rates off-peak.
Peak hours are defined as 7am to 9am and 4:30pm to 6:30pm Monday through Friday. The off-peak discount was 25%, so drivers losing the discount will face an approximate 33% increase in their toll.
So a motorist driving from IC-1 to IC-18E off-peak will pay $6.80 with a New Jersey account, but one with a non-NJ account or using cash will pay $9.05, $2.25 or a third more.
The measure is estimated to raise $16m extra/year in tolls, and was advanced by staff solely as a revenue measure. Off-peak discounts were adopted in late 1999 under CEO Ed Gross after a study by Wilbur Smith Associates to reduce traffic congestion by providing an incentive to drivers to drive out of the peakhours.
The vote today was unanimous. The change goes into effect July 1.
It affects about a third of E-ZPass transactions and about a fifth of total transactions.
COMMENT: this is a step backward. It violates the whole spirit - if not the letter of the rules - of E-ZPass that the motorist gets the same deal regardless of the location of the account. The parochial discrimination set up by this move is deplorable. Off-peak discounts make sense on highways where there is commuter congestion and they are should apply to all drivers.
A better move to raise extra revenue would have been to change the congestion pricing to a premium surcharge on peakhour tolls in congested sections of the Turnpike. But that would have required political courage - editor.