Port Authority Official Defends Ticketing of GWB Carpoolers, Cites Safety
A spokesman said the agency is working with local officials to come up with a safer place for people to pick up passengers after a group launches an online petition calling enforcement "unfair."
In light of an online petition recently launched by a group of carpoolers hoping to stop the Port Authority from what they see as “unfairly targeting” them for picking up passengers just before the George Washington Bridge tollbooths on the south side of Bridge Plaza, a Port Authority police spokesman Wednesday defended the enforcement program but said the agency is working with Fort Lee officials to find a solution.
The group of carpoolers from Fort Lee and neighboring towns mobilized last year to demand that Port Authority police stop ticketing them for violations like illegally taking on passengers or stopping at a bus stop, arguing in part that it’s been common practice for many years to pick up passengers there, whether you know them or not, in order to take advantage of the hefty discount the agency offers through its “Carpool Plan.”
Spokesman Al Della Fave acknowledged that Port Authority police have been issuing summonses for unsafe lane changes—sometimes drivers coming up the center ramp have to cut across four lanes of traffic to get to the bus lane, he said, “with total disregard of other folks who are coming up that outer ramp”—and for picking up passengers at the bus stop, which can cause a backup into traffic lanes.
“Besides breaking whatever law it might be—the unsafe lane change or the bus stop—just note too that we don’t condone picking up complete and utter strangers into your vehicle,” Della Fave said. “You may be putting yourself in danger.”
But he also said that if the petition “helps move things forward on the local level,” then it’s a positive.
“We want to resolve the issue too,” he said.
People who are getting ticketed lately are those “who are most blatantly violating the traffic rules or causing danger in terms of the bus lane,” according to Della Fave.
Further exacerbating the problem, he said, is that people heeding the warning about picking up strangers are now being selective about who they let into their cars, which he noted is a good safety precaution, but one that’s causing bus traffic to back up, sometimes as many as three to four buses deep, and causing accidents.
“We’ve got the buses and jitneys trying to get in there to pick up their passengers to conduct their business, and it’s not working,” Della Fave said. “You’re going to wind up with a real tragedy on your hands where somebody is going to rear-end someone very badly.”
He added, “We can’t allow them to do it anymore.”
Della Fave said the Port Authority has had “a number of meetings” with Fort Lee officials with the aim of finding another area where people can safely pick up passengers. In the meantime, the Port Authority recommends frequent carpoolers make arrangements with people they’ve picked up in the past, “where now it would be a common occurrence to have an alternate spot to pick up,” Della Fave said.
“They just cannot be using the bus lane—the bus stop—for that purpose,” he said. “They’re going to have to find an alternate place, and hopefully what we’re doing with the local officials, we’ll be able to nail down an area within a short time.”