Port Authority hikes fares, tolls on bridges, tunnels, trains to fund infrastructure

The unanimously approved increases include a new pickup and drop-off charge for e-hail and taxi trips, as well as fare hikes for Newark and JFK AirTrains.

Fare and toll increases are coming to Port Authority bridges, tunnels and trains.

The bi-state authority’s board on Thursday unanimously voted to approve proposed hikes to support its infrastructure improvements and rising construction costs. The changes come with a new pickup and drop-off charge for e-hail and taxi trips.

"We recognize that any increase, every increase, is not popular. We recognize that is painful; we don’t want to impose increases," said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton after the vote, citing the need to replace and improve infrastructure, like their airports and the Manhattan bus terminal.  

“We must on the other hand support investment in what are again legacy facilities,” he said. “If we’re going to get to 21st-century facilities, there must be funding.”

Under the approved increases, Newark and JFK AirTrains will see big bumps, from the current $5 fare to $7.75. Meanwhile, under the new “airport ground transportation access fee,” there will be an additional $2.50 tacked on to each e-hail trip as well as a $1.25 fee for taxi pickups.

Bridge and tunnel tolls for E-ZPass users will jump from $12.50 to $13.75 during peak hours and from $10.50 to $11.75 during the off-peak.

The hikes will come at different times, with the AirTrain rates first slated to rise on Nov. 1. New bridge and tunnel tolls launch Jan. 5, 2020, with the airport e-hail and taxi fees taking effect Oct. 3, 2020. The taxi pickup fee is scheduled to increase to $1.75 two years later, on Oct. 1, 2022.

The new rates were coupled with the approval of a revised capital spending plan for 2017 to 2026, which will grow from $32.2 billion to $37 billion.

A significant portion of that capital plan increase includes $390 million in new funding for the increasingly expensive LaGuardia AirTrain project, a key priority of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The Port Authority now expects the new monorail to cost $2.05 billion, up from the previous estimate of $1.5 billion and significantly higher than the original proposed cost of $450 million outlined in 2014.

The Port Authority held seven public meetings on the changes and did eventually tweak its initial proposals for the airport access fee. Originally the PA proposed a $4 charge for both pickups and drop-offs in ride-hail services and a $4 pickup fee for taxi trips.

The revision came after the concept sparked fierce backlash from taxi drivers who are reeling through an economic crisis triggered by predatory loans and plummeting medallion values as companies like Uber and Lyft expanded in New York City.

In addition to the price changes, advocates at the New York Taxi Workers Alliance and the Independent Drivers Guild said they secured other key amenities, including new bathrooms; mediation trailers for prayers and a new effort to reduce summonsing of drivers.

"The airports are like a second home for thousands of drivers who go there for work — and often as the only place to park and eat or use a restroom while still ‘on duty,’” said alliance Executive Director Bhairavi Desai in a statement. “It’s the place where drivers every day are the ambassadors of our city. A restrictive fee would have punished the very drivers who keep the airports moving, rather than recognizing their hard work.”

Vincent Barone