It’s the Same Old Idea: Slap a Toll On the Trucks

February 1, 2018

John Bendel

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Here we go again. Governments and toll agencies want to charge you extra to go where you have to go, just because you drive a truck.

The latest proposal is to cordon off the bottom half of Manhattan and charge a fee to enter. The idea from a New York State advisory panel is to erect E-ZPass gantries and cameras to monitor all traffic into the area from the bottom tip of Manhattan up to 60th Street, the bottom of Central Park. That happens to include some of the busiest, most densely packed real estate in the world. The people that live and work there use up a lot of stuff.

True, interstate truck deliveries usually go to distribution centers outside the city so local trucks do those last miserable miles. Usually but not always. Some big trucks do deliver in Manhattan – to the Javits Convention Center, to city utilities, and to construction sites, for starters.

The advisory panel suggests trucks pay up to $24.34 to enter the midtown-downtown zone, depending on the time of day. If you happen to be coming from west of the city, that could be on top of the $108 it costs to ride an 18-wheeler across the George Washington Bridge during business hours ($126 if you don’t have E-ZPass). Of course, the GW Bridge is the only way into the city for trucks from the New Jersey side, and only the upper deck at that. The lower deck of the GW, as well as the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, have been closed to trucks since 9/11.

The panel suggests that once built, the systems should only charge trucks at first. After an “appropriate,” but indeterminate period of testing on trucks, cars would pay up to $11.50.

“I heard Governor Cuomo mention it, but it was like a throwaway. But now I understand he means it, he really means it,” said Gail Toth, Executive Director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association. Many association members operate trucks in New York City.

“It’s not congestion,” Gail added, “It’s a money-making scheme.”

For sure. The advisory panel report makes it clear the money will, for the most part, be used to upgrade the city’s decrepit subway system. Squeeze cars and trucks out of the zone and get more people on the subway, right?

Not really. Private cars aren’t the problem, neither are big trucks. The panel’s own report says trucks comprise less than 8% of total vehicles. The problem seems to be the internet. Web-dependent Uber and Lyft cars crowd the streets. So do cars and small trucks making little deliveries for Amazon and other web retailers.

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Yet the really smart people behind this plan are going to charge trucks that have no choice but to be there. They won’t go away because of the added cost. That will be passed on in the price of everything delivered and sold there. But the trucks will remain.

Unless they find a way to deliver goods by subway, of course.

 

John Bendel

John Bendel is Land Line’s contributing editor-at-large. A former trucker, former editor at National Lampoon, and longtime truck writer, John is an author, photographer, and freelancer for New York Times. There’s more, but in short, his insight and matchless style of writing makes “Gizmos and Gears” a runaway reader favorite.