New Year's Day 2012 marked an increase for tolls along the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, and now I, and hundreds of thousands of others, had to shell out more to get to work.
I am somewhat fortunate, because with my drive from Toms River to Lincroft, comes a few options to avoid the Parkway. I usually take advantage of these "shortcuts" on Fridays in the summers to beat the vacationers (BENNIES) south and just not have to deal with all the added traffic.
So on January 1, 2012, I was scheduled to work my 3pm to 11pm shift, therefore, I decided to take to the back roads, and this time, really see what advantages I could manufacture. Will my gas mileage be improved? Is it fewer miles, thus saving wear and tear on my vehicle? What the exact amount of time I am sacrificing? These were the burning questions that had to be answered, along with how the local municipalities are going to be affected.
First off, my gas mileage was about the same, so that was a wash. I travelled only an extra 1.3 miles, so the added distance was marginal. So now, on to the almighty and decisive factor. Time. Normally for my 30 mile jaunt from the entrance at mile 82 to Exit 109 is 30 miles and 30 minutes from my driveway. No lights, (except for the 2 miles from my house to the Parkway) just have to keep up with the traffic, no matter the speed that day.
On New Year's Day, I spent an extra 20 minutes winding around Lakewood, Howell, Farmingdale, Wall and Tinton Falls before I arrived at my office. I was on time, because I left early just in case a wrinkle was thrown in by some of my fellow drivers. I didn't mind the drive today, because it was a beautiful day, but I just don't think I can do this everyday I work.
The State of New Jersey just doesn't realize, or maybe it does, the enormous impact on local roads these toll increases will have. Residents can utilize the Routes 9 and 35 corridors, joining trucks and buses causing delays, pollution and unfortunately more accidents. The Parkway was intended to be a safe and alternative gateway between North and South Jersey, while it contributed to the population growth of the the last twenty five years of the twentieth century.
Local police will have to be more diligent and may have to larger in numbers for the security of their roads that they patrol. So will more officers be needed in some communities? Will more crossing guards have to be hired to ensure students get to school safely? How will local roads, that haven't been paved in fifty years hold up? Small questions to some, but these issues will have a large impact on towns and its residents that try to get back and forth to work safely, in a timely manner and within a family budget that is being stretched for many households.