|Police Ticketing Informal Rideshare Participants Based On No Law, But To Protect Port Authority Revenue|
from the sad dept
We've talked many times about how legacy industries and organizations seek to protect against competition they don't like. One example we've mentioned a few times involves taxi companies and bus companies trying to shut down upstarts such as ride-sharing/carpooling services as being "unlicensed" transportation offerings. What they really mean, of course, is that they're competition in a market with artificial barriers to entry, which artificially keep prices high -- sometimes astronomically high. But, of course, as with any attempt to defeat real competition, those in support of cracking down have some sort of sob story, and governments and law enforcement often fall for it with no evidence.
Aaron DeOlivera points us to a sort of twist on the situation described above, where the real issue is people paying less money to the Port Authority of NY. You see, if you are in a carpool (of at least 3 people) and cross the George Washington Bridge (between the Bronx and New Jersey) you save $6 on the toll. That's a decent-sized savings, so people have set up an informal sort of ride share, in that those who want to get across will wait at a nearby bus station, and drivers will swing by and pick them up for the ride. The riders get a free trip across the bridge... and the driver gets a lower toll. Win-win.
Except for the Port Authority. And apparently the police are helping out the PA by giving tickets to people picking up hitchhikers based on absolutely no violation of any law.
... the crackdown on carpools smacks of a revenue-grab by the Port Authority, which has been criticized for lavish pay and benefits. With extensive overtime, some toll collectors make more than $100,000, while salaries for several officers working at the bridge topped $200,000 last year. Even so, the report notes that the police still show up. Even if there's nothing illegal happening, just having the police show up -- and having people think that there might be something wrong -- causes people to worry about taking part.
Curious to see what would happen, Mr. Topyan [an economist who's been observing the practice] recently picked up two passengers in plain sight of a police officer—and was promptly ticketed. Having researched the law, he spent six hours in traffic court and won his case. “The prosecutor was jumping up and down in disbelief,” he says. He didn’t have to pay.