Consider this one of my “I have to know” articles but in my recent trip to Long Island, I had to cross both the George Washington and Throgs Neck Bridge going both ways. Traveling from New Jersey to New York, you have to pay a toll for both bridges and on the way back, you only have to pay for the Throgs Neck Bridge. Unlike your standard $0.50 or $1 toll booth, these guys aren’t cheap. The George Washington toll is $8.00 and the Throgs Neck toll is $5.50. Round trip, I paid $19.00 in tolls and it got me to wondering just how much these toll booths collect each and every day.
On the George Washington Bridge, there are 23 cash toll booths as well as 8 EZ pass booths. That means at any given time, 31 different collection points are established, taking in $8.00. So just how often do cars pass through the George Washington Bridge? Well the day I traveled, where traffic was very very light, I had a to wait about 2 minutes before I made it to the front of the line. I would imagine that on days where traffic is heavier, the line simply never shortens to the point where the toll booth operator can take even a 30-second break. Whether it’s 3pm or 3 am, the George Washington bridge always has a line of cars waiting to pass. This makes my calculation a whole lot easier.
I’ve estimated that it takes an average of 30 seconds for a car to pass through the cash line, and 10 seconds for one to pass through the EZ pass line. When you think about it, 30 seconds and 10 seconds might appear to be long amounts of time, but you have to factor in the people who don’t have change, the people that don’t know how much the toll booth costs and other possible delays. The more I consider this time-frame, I might be too high but let’s keep these numbers for arguments sake.
Time for the quick math. At 23 toll booths on the cash side collecting every 30 seconds, that means $184.00 is collected in cash during this time frame. On the EZ Pass lanes, $144 is collected every 30 seconds, as they can accommodate eighteen cars (three in each lane). That means in total the George Washington Bridge collects $328 in tolls every 30 seconds and when you expand that to show an entire day, $944,640 is collected. That’s almost a million dollars every day!
Multiply that over 365 days and you have more than $344 million collected each and every year by the George Washington Bridge! Traffic indicators would suggest that more than 100 million people travel across the George Washington Bridge each year meaning around half of them pay the toll since you only pay the toll traveling into NY city (not leaving). After careful consideration, my estimate is pretty close to the traffic indicators. Not too shabby.
With all of the bridges located in NYC and all of the toll booths located around the United States, you expect billions and billions of dollars to be collected each and every year. That money goes primarily to state budgets, which can certainly be puzzling considering just how broke most states are these days. You might not think it, but toll booths are big business for state funding so if you want to help your state out during tough times, just go out and take a drive.
Published or updated January 3, 2011.