When the Whitestone Bridge opened in 1939, the toll was 25 cents. Now the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is risking the ire of motorists by raising the cash-lane tab for its major crossings to $6.50.
But things aren't quite as bad as they look. The E-ZPass price will be just $4.80 - not much more than $3.93, which is what the old 25 cents would be today when adjusted for inflation. And while cash customers are getting hit with an 18 percent increase, E-ZPass users will pay only 5 percent more.
Although painful, the higher penalty for cash users makes sense as a way to encourage adoption of E-ZPass, which cuts congestion and saves money on toll takers. All these increases are frustrating, but the MTA could ease the pain a little by moving as fast as possible to completely automate toll-taking, thereby reducing the maddening delays at its toll plazas, and by maintaining its high-priced bridges and tunnels more effectively, so that traffic isn't always snarled by never-ending roadwork.
The goal of the toll hikes, along with previously approved transit fare increases, is to help close the transportation agency's $900-million budget gap. That has to be done, even if we can't be entirely confident the MTA will spend the money as wisely as it should. hN