CAMDEN, N.J., (CBS) — If you have EZPass and use one of the Delaware River Port Authority bridges over the Delaware River, you could see credits on your monthly statement by the end of the year. The Authority is restoring frequent user discounts that had been eliminated 4 years ago in an economy move.
30 thousand drivers a day could be eligible. The trigger, if you make at least 18 round trips a month. If you do, the credit will be automatic. Board chairman Ryan Boyer says “We made an affirmative action that we’re not going to go up on tolls for the next three years. Given where people’s tolls are in New York City and the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I think this is a momentous occasion.”
The discounts had been a mainstay at the agency until 2011, when budget struggles and an insistence on reforms from Governors on both sides of the river prompted a move to suspend them in the name of economy. “It’s the culmination of a lot of work by administration and governmental entities to ensure that the Port Authority had the financial strength to give something back to its’ beat bridge customers”, said board Vice-Chairman Jeffrey Nash. He was in his position when the those earlier moves were made.
The new discounts will take effect before the end of the year. There is also a pledge not to hike tolls for at least three years, when the policy will be re-examined. In addition, drivers with transponders provided by the Pennsylvania Turnpike may be able to use the same frequent driver discount, if that agency agrees to participate in the program. Both the turnpike and the DRPA are working to make that happen.
At today’s meeting, a member of the public asked the board why PATCO riders don’t get a similar deal. DRPA CEO John Hanson says those riders are getting help from bridge toll payers.
“The operating budget at PATCO is 52 million dollars” he said, “and PATCO generates 26 million dollars in revenue…which means they return about 50 percent”.
The rest of PATCO’s operating budget comes from toll revenue, which also provides all of the money for PATCO’s capital work., including refurbishing the entire 120 car fleet and replacing rails on the Ben Franklin Bridge. Commissioners did not rule out the possibility of revisiting the issue of providing PATCO riders a discount at some point.
In other board action, commissioners approved a plan to begin selling special passes to be used on PATCO during Pope Francis’s scheduled visit in late September next week. They will be available on line and at the Broadway station in Camden. Cost is 5 dollars for one day or 10 dollars for both and there are no plans to sell paper tickets that weekend. Freedom Card holders will be able to use their cards on the system that weekend. The agency expects at least 90 thousand riders a day that weekend, more than 4 times their usual patronage on a weekday.