Scrip, Tokens and Ephemera
from the States of New York
and New Jersey
by Philip M. Goldstein
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Early City of New York
Toll Bridges, Plank Roads
MTA Bridges & Tunnels
of New York Authority
Port Authority of New York
and New Jersey
of New York
including the international crossings
|State of New Jersey|
updated: 26 October 2020 - 15:10 CDT
website created: 27 October 2019
Introduction, Conclusion and Page Index
Welcome! You have found the most extensive compendium of information regarding Toll Scrip & Token Issues from the States of New York and New Jersey.
As with most obscure ephemera & exonumia issues, in-depth details regarding the toll scrip and token issues of the New York / New Jersey Metropolitan area were severely lacking.
While collectors including myself for years have known of and acquired these token & scrip issues; short of club or convention presentations, not much was publicity known nor has documentation has been forthcoming to recording their history to posterity. To this collectors best knowledge and research, this is the first online website regarding these issues, and it was borne out of research.
For those token issues that are known, I use the widely recognized and respectable Atwood Coffee Catalog for United States & Canadian Transportation Tokens, Seventh Edition (2016), Volume One. I have encountered token varieties that are not listed. So, I took the liberty to expand upon the Atwood Coffee numbering system with a subletter.
In regards to "modern" era New York / New Jersey Metropolitan Area toll fiscal issues, there are two separate and distinct agencies that issued fiscal items for toll use; the Triborough Bridge & Tunnel Authority or "TBTA", which has become the Metropolitan Transportation Authority - Bridges & Tunnels and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey "PANYNJ", which was formerly known as Port of New York Authority. Each of these agencies is covered on their own respective pages.
In regards to scrip, here is where this website should set the bar for research and reference: while the token issues have been researched and documented throughout the decades, courtesy of the Atwood Coffee catalog and the American Vecturist Association (vecturist: a collector of transportation tokens); toll scrip on the other hand has remained relatively unknown.
To my knowledge, there are no catalogs, guides or other reference materials. Scrip is sort of like the introverted child, playing by itself in a corner of a room somewhere while its popular sibling, the token; is surrounded by lots of friends and attention. Much as in my observation paper money collectors have a smaller population than that of coin collectors.
In any event, I hope this website corrects this regarding these issues.
It has been asked of me on more than one occasion "why don't I split up this one big page" into smaller pages for each topic. Like with my railroad related websites; while doing such would certainly made my life a tad easier and organized from the beginning, it would be harder for the reader to search multiple topics and compare issues.
But as it turned out, it was a software glitch (Microsoft Visual C + + error) that was the impetus for paginating the website. So be it. Now the page is divided into seven pages:
Each page in itself has a sub-index at the top of it, to help guide you through the various chapters and tabulations.
As with all my published works; information, corrections, suggestions and contact is always welcome, so feel free to contact me via email or telephone at (936) 396-6103.
PhilIf you should have any questions, suggestions, additions, contributions or corrections, I more than welcome hearing from you.
I am especially interested in images of issues not already mentioned here! Needless to say, I am always interested in procuring issues I do not have, so please do not hesitate to contact me either by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at (936) 396-6103.
The Purpose of a Toll
The purpose in paying a toll may be obvious to many of us, but some would be surprised to learn many people have never paid a toll in their travels. And as a result, they simply do not know what a toll is or how long it tolls have existed.
"Toll roads have existed for at least the last 2,700 years, as tolls had to be paid by travelers using the Susa–Babylon highway under the regime of Ashurbanipal, who reigned in the 7th century BC. Aristotle and Pliny refer to tolls in Arabia and other parts of Asia. In India, before the 4th century BC, the Arthashastra notes the use of tolls. Germanic tribes charged tolls to travelers across mountain passes."
In the United States, the first toll bridge opened in 1704 in New England. The first "toll turnpike" was opened in 1785 (on a previously existing road) in Virginia.
In short, tolls are nothing new. When a new crossing or road was completed, it was customary to be charged a fare to cross that bridge or to travel that road. In most cases the collected tolls were used to recuperate the cost of materials and labor in the construction of that crossing, as well the cost in acquiring the land / property on which it was built. In some cases, primarily that of the antiquated era; it was to guarantee safe passage on a road, with the tolls used to hire escorts to protect the traveler from bandits and thieves.
For the sake of context and website, we will be discussing tolls collected for maintenance.
After the total cost of the bridge was recuperated; the continued collection of tolls made it possible to maintain the bridge, upgrade it for heavier traffic, or when the life expectancy of the span was reached; to give the owner, whether they be a private entity (as a lot of bridges were privately owned in the early days) or a government agency the funding to build a new structure in its place.
In almost all cases, the toll was collected on the spot by the toll collector, who lived by the crossing. Hence the building was called "toll house", where today we mostly associate it with a chocolate chip cookie. In most cases the toll collector was the person who owned the crossing and / or the land it was built upon and resided in the nearest structure. In some cases of success, a person was hired to collect the toll for the owner.
Some of the toll houses were spartan affairs, no more than a single room cottage. Others were constructed with a covered breezeway where a horse & cart could pull under, out of the weather and where the rider would dismount, go into the toll house to pay the toll and perhaps pass along news or trade goods with the owner or toll collector. Many of these toll houses can be seen in vintage postcards.
As urban areas developed, such as City of New York, the City of Brooklyn, etc; new crossings were constructed as the cities expanded, to offer convenience in transportation. There were many tributaries that wound their way through the previously undeveloped lands and to build crossings cost money, and so tolls were collected. As each crossing would almost certainly be owned by a different owner, there could be a lot of disparity in the toll being charged by the owner. The toll might be charged by the number of riders, number of horses, the cargo carried or any other arbitrary item. Some might be two cents, others one cent, some a nickel.
And in some cases, the inevitable dark side of human nature would rear its ugly head and those people not on friendly terms with the bridge owner would find themselves needing to cross. All too often they found themselves being gouged into paying a higher fare. The next crossing may not be for a few miles up or downstream and horses and oxen do have limitations.
By this time in the early 1800's, dozens of small privately owned bridges located within the City of New York and the surrounding cities of Brooklyn, Queens, Richmond and the Bronx (themselves independent cities until the merger of 1898). These small bridges that collected tolls included (but certainly not limited to) Macomb's Dam Bridge in the Bronx, Penny Bridge in Queens, Gowanus Creek & Bushwick Creek Toll Bridges in Brooklyn, and many others throughout the city.
Eventually, with the organization of city governments and usually after a few complaints were received; a department of bridges was formed and a commissioner appointed. Naturally not everyone would be pleased but it worked and disagreements kept to a minimum.
For New York City, this occurred in 1898, when the Department of Bridges replaced the Board of Bridge Commissioners, and the Commissioner of Bridges was appointed by the Mayor. Uniform fare schedules were codified. But in most cases, and at this point in the industrial revolution, minor bridge crossings over very small tributaries within the City were now free and included in the city block grid.
Yet another way the situation remedied itself was once the owner of a crossing retired or sold out, the City would step in and purchase the land and / or crossing or even obtain it through eminent domain to improve the waterway and the issue would be eliminated altogether with the new crossing now being a public thoroughfare.
This is not to say that city governments do not use toll collection as a financial crutch, as we have all to often seen where the tolls are collected to recover the debt incurred with construction of the highway or bridge; but once the debts are in fact recovered, the toll remains in place!
Prior to the introduction of the Eisenhower Interstate Highway System and the large federal grants and subsidies issued to the individual states to build the portions transversing through their borders, many states constructed their first limited-access highways by floating financial bonds backed by toll revenues. Beginning in 1940 with the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and followed over time by similar roads constructed in New Jersey (the New Jersey Turnpike in 1952 and Garden State Parkway in 1954), as well as the New York State Thruway opening in 1954, as well as many others.
With said establishment of the Interstate Highway System in the late 1950s, toll road construction in the United States slowed down considerably, as the federal government now provided the majority of funding to construct new freeways, and where regulations stipulated that such Interstate Highways be free from tolls. But as we see, this does not apply to those roads and crossings within the states themselves.
On the upside and at the least, the tolls collected do charge the actual user of that highway or crossing, as opposed to the debt being spread amongst property taxes and potentially to residents who use the crossings minimally or in some cases not at all. This method is especially applicable to the driver who uses the crossing once or maybe in their travels, and whereas they would have free passage, the residents of the government who maintain that crossing bear the burden of upkeep.
Scrip: "any substitute for legal tender. It is often a form of credit."
It also has to be kept in mind that the issuance of the tokens and / or scrip were not to permit or control admittance to the bridges or tunnels; as the subway tokens were used to gain admittance to the subway. Tokens and scrip were used to encourage regular commuters and toll users to prepay their toll and thereby increase their speed in paying the toll at their moment of passage and thereby reducing congestion and dwell time at the manned toll booths. This reduced dwell time would further be enhanced in later years with the addition of exact change lanes.
In the beginning when tolls were a nickel or a dime, and the private automobile was a luxury and not within the grasp of the everyman; traffic on the highways and the toll booths were minimal. By the end of the 1930's more cars were manufactured and they slowly became affordable to the working class. But then World War II broke out and with gasoline rationing, private auto use was curtailed to a minimum.
Following the end of the war in 1945, is when things on the highways really got moving (pun intended!) Now thanks to the war economy and the golden days of prosperity - there was a chicken in every pot and a car in every driveway.
A trip to the shore or to the mountains or even a multi-day camping & fishing vacation was within grasp of just about every working stiff and his family. But, more cars equaled more wear and tear on the road surface and bridges. Repairs cost money, materials cost money, labor cost money. How to raise the funds for these repairs and increasing traffic capacity without raising taxes unduly?
Tolls. But paying a toll required time. Time to pay. Time to make change. Time to stop your car and time to accelerate again. This caused back ups at the toll booths, also known as dwell time.
And as more cars entered private ownership (and with the curtailing of streetcars and public transportation for commuting); you had more commuters driving to and from work as well as the leisure driver enroute to visit their relatives on Long Island or Westchester or South Jersey.
Speed = Prepayment
So either rolls of tokens or books of scrip were sold at face value to speed the process of paying a toll.
It is pertinent to understand that when the first toll scrip issues for New York in 1935 as well as the toll tokens for the Garden State Parkway in 1981 were not sold at a discount, but merely a prepaid form of payment.
After a somewhat mundane reception and less than enthusiastic usage, these prepaid forms were then sold at a discount below the singular one way or round trip fare, and to be purchased in advance to increase its enticement in being used.
This worked, and their usage increased as drivers learned of the benefits of using them.
Commutation Rates - a bigger discount but with an expiration dateAnd to those who utilized the crossings regularly; whether commuting to and from their employment daily or in their occupation being in the hauling of goods; now found themselves having to stop frequently to pay the toll. And in the beginning, they usually paid full price.
For those making the trip 5 days a work week / 20 days a work month, paying this toll can get expensive. If a toll was 50 cents one way, round trip was obviously 1 dollar. $5 dollars a week, $20 dollars a month, $240 dollars a year. And when the tolls went up, so did the costs of commuting to and from work.
So the agencies created commutation rates. Depending on the amount of scrip purchased and how long it was valid for, determined the amount of discount the purchaser received.
Toll scrip was sold at a larger discount; in that a book of say, thirty .50 cent tickets may have been sold for 35 cents of face value, costing the commuter only $10.50 instead of the regular toll rate of $15.00. And by using a prepaid scrip meant faster dwell time at the toll - a driver didn't have to fumble for change or worse be distracted from the road by looking in their wallet or ashtray for coinage or currency; and a collector didn't have to make change. It sped up the toll payment process eliminating traffic back up and pollution.
Depending on the quantity of scrip purchased and its duration of validity, determined initial cost: 30 scrip for 30 days, 25 scrip for two months, 10 scrip for one year, etc. Usually the "commutation" books of 30 days offered the greatest discount but the shortest time of validity. And to understand the amounts, is why I spent a great deal of time on compiling the historical lists of toll amounts both for the TBTA and the PNYA / PANYNJ.
Another factor that must be recognized is that in some cases the stipulation of payment with scrip was that the toll collector must detach the scrip from the book each time, not the driver. I do not know for certain how inviolable this rule was, but most scrip book covers mention this and even some of the scrip itself has "DO NOT DETACH" printed on it. Loose tickets were not formally accepted.
In other words and for example; if your rolled up to the toll booth in your car and the cash toll was .50; you could hand the toll clerk a $5 bill, and say "a roll". You would get in return: a roll of 9 tokens, a dollar bill for change, maybe a smile and away you drove. For the rest of the week you could use the exact change lane.
And so, in consideration of purchasing that roll of tokens or scrip in advance, and letting that agency hold your money for an indeterminate period of time; your toll fare was discounted 10% to 45 cents. And that passage at the moment of purchase would be discounted as well. for the rest of the week, you can use an "exact change lane" and just toss your token into the automated collection basket at the toll booth at as slow roll instead of having to stop.
As result of this research, it is now known the TBTA tokens (the only token issues known) varied in their rate of discount, whereas both the TBTA and PNYA and PANYNJ "good until used" scrip were usually fixed at 10% and commutation scrip was offered at 20% due to expiration dates.
And for what it is worth, toll scrip is not to be confused with a toll receipt, which was provided to the driver that proof the toll was paid. Toll scrip was used to pay, and toll receipts provided proof you paid, whether you needed the proof for your employer or as an employer to deduct it from your taxes or business expenses.
Toll receipts were generally not available at exact change lanes.
With the advent and wide acceptance of E-ZPass; highway and bridge and tunnel administrations found it no longer necessary to print various denominations of tickets or have tokens minted. So this time honored system is slowly fading into obscurity.
Without going to great lengths about the E-ZPass system so as not to muddle the scope of this website; you, as a driver or a company registered by mail or email for an E-ZPass (or several - depending on your needs). You link it with a specific vehicle, and linked it electronically with a debit card or bank account, and specified a replenish amount.
E-ZPass also offers discounts for commercial truck volume (100 crossings over same crossing in a month); depending on your residency location, you can also select from one of several discount plans (Staten Island, Rockaway, etc.), carpool plans; among others.
Upon receipt of your order, each vehicle is issued its own specifically programmed E-ZPass. The RFID unit is programmed with the particulars of your toll usage; whether it be automobile, one of several classes of commercial trucks, carpool usage or resident discounts, to the license plate of the vehicle. As such, you cannot take the E-ZPass transmitter from one vehicle to another vehicle.
In the State of New York, the molded plastic case of the E-ZPass transmitter are now color coded as well:
You mount the transmitter unit on your windshield (a recommended location is usually on the inside of the vehicle, on the glass behind the rear view mirror, so it was out of sight). However some units and commercial E-ZPass tags are mounted to the screws on your license plate.
Most of the Eastern United States operates off one system now, to include 27 agencies in 16 states:
This system allows one to travel on almost any toll road or cross any bridge or tunnel in that region, and that E-ZPass would account for your toll payment. While mine was issued by the New York State Thruway Authority, it was reciprocal to Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority crossings as well as Port Authority of New You and New Jersey crossings, and all the assorted parkways, toll roads, airport parking lots and what not listed above.
During usage, at such time when your balance dropped below your requested threshold, your debit card or bank account was charged in the preset amount you specified on your application or online account. I had mine set for $25 dollars when the balance dropped below $10. I didn't travel all to often, and this sufficed. But those traveling over the Verrazano when a single one way toll is $19, would most certainly need a higher preset amount.
When first implemented, you didn't have to stop at a toll barrier but you had to slow to less than 10 miles per hour. As technology advanced, you can now maintain highway speed and still pay your toll.
One of the beautiful advantages of E-ZPass was you no longer had to deal with surly toll collectors; and in a metropolitan area like New York City, there were more than a few. Some were justifiably unhappy: you try sucking car, truck and bus fumes for 8 hours a day, taking tolls from smelly commercial refuse trucks, and handling at times very grubby money. And in the hottest and coldest of weather. They might have had overhead protection from rain but that didn't stop the heat, humidity or chill getting at them when they opened their door. And during rush hour? The doors were always open.
Add this to having to deal with drivers with poor toll knowledge and driving experience, sometimes in questionable broken English; asking directions, as well as sneezing and coughing in your general direction. Then again, some collectors just had a chip on their shoulder from the moment they woke up. What could you do?
However, and depending on how you look at it; E-ZPass is good or bad, as it could account for your movements, or more specifically, your vehicle. This was advantageous to law enforcement, who could access your E-ZPass data, and see if you (or actually your vehicle) were near the location of a crime you might be suspected of committing. Dumb criminals didn't figure this out until a few years later. Some still don't realize it. You really kind of forget the E-ZPass is even there. And the innocent could rely on it and say, "I was here at such and such time!", with the E-ZPass data providing them with an alibi. Many a Law & Order episode noted this investigative method.
There were also rumors upon its initial roll out, that insurance companies could access your data, and if you were to pass through two barriers a specified distance apart quicker than the allotted time for the average speed limit between those two points, and do it repeatedly; your insurance premium would go up (they always went up anyway...) My father was one of those that believed this rumor, and to the very end of his days, he paid his toll in cash. I remember many trips where he'd sit in a traffic back up at the Lincoln Tunnel on our way home from upstate, in a cash lane while people zipped around him to the E-ZPass lane. I'd look at him and he'd say "Never!" He passed away before they eliminated toll collectors in their entirety, so I don't know how he would have managed now!
Me, I signed up for one, and never looked back. How many times we would travel in two separate vehicles from Upstate NY to Brooklyn, and I would make the trip in 3 hours flat without speeding. I'd inevitably lose him by the Harriman / Woodbury Toll Barrier (a/k/a Exit 16) on the NYS Thruway. I would get home; and he would not roll in until at least 45 minutes later, just by waiting to pay tolls at Woodbury and depending on construction either Lincoln and Brooklyn Battery Tunnels, or Tappan Zee and Triborough Bridges.
And I never saw an increase in my insurance premiums, and I know that I had eschewed the speed limit (ever so slightly - giggle) on the New York Thruway from time to time, and how glad I was when the speed limit was raised to 65 miles an hour! I live in Texas now, where the speed limit is a healthy 70 mph on most state & county roads, 75 mph on highways and interstates - and I get passed like I'm standing still!
Coincidentally, the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, is the largest tolling agency by revenue in the United States ($1.9 billion in 2017). It began its E-ZPass implementation in 1995 and completed it at all nine of its toll facilities by January 1997.
And remember: If Sonny Corleone had an E-ZPass, he'd still be alive!
Sonny at the Toolbooth
And here is some interesting tidbits about the "toll booth scene":
1) Contrary to urban myth, it wasn't filmed at the Jones Beach Causeway (or the Atlantic Beach Bridge) - it was a custom built set on a runway at Mitchel Field, Long Island!
Several people have made significant contributions to this page, whether agency officials in furnishing information or collectors sharing images of their collection. My grateful appreciation is due to these individuals:
if it were not for our shared interests of collecting obsolete USDA Food Coupons, he might never have found out my affection for toll issues.
That in turn led him to gift me a small box of PANYNJ toll scrip and booklet covers he accumulated over several years during his commutation between New Jersey and Staten Island;
and that of which formed the foundation on which to build my collection upon 20 years ago.
George S. Cuhaj
for the sharing of images from his collection, and without such a great portion of this website would not be possible.
Perhaps George is due even more gratitude than a mere mention here, as when he decided to part with his collection of toll ephemera; mine was considered a worthy home!
of Osborne Coinage (successor to Roger Williams Mint)
for production totals on the Staten Island & Rockaway Resident token issues
Mary Hedge, and Christopher McKniff
and most of all:
of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority - Bridges & Tunnel Archives and Press Office
Ms. Hedge and Mr. McKniff led me to Ms. Hankins who is the assistant archivist, and who has been absolutely indispensable in research of and furnishing documents
from the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. How she has not tired of my emails yet, remains a mystery!
Sam "Gridlock Sam" Schwartz
retired New York City Department of Transportation Chief Engineer / First Deputy Commissioner and road & traffic guru.
I had read his articles in the New York Daily News which kept me abreast of road information during my tenure as a Brooklyn resident even as a child and later as a commuter!
and my father Stan,
whose thirst for driving allowed me to broaden my horizons and experience life on the roads of the Eastern Seaboard.
Thanks are also due in part to the following:
While I have collected these fiscal issues for tolls for decades,
I owe a certain amount of credit for the inspiration of this website, to one of my closest friends, who in reality is more like a younger brother;
Paul F. Strubeck
It was in his endeavor of composing and authoring a completely unrelated magazine article about
Long Island Rail Road tractor trailer truck bogies, and the related conclusion of what it cost per truck in tolls at that time.
So, he came to me and asked "trying to find NYC bridge toll rates, from 1988."
And so here we are.
All images and content of this website, unless otherwise marked are copyrighted - © 2020 - Philip M. Goldstein
The content of this website is not to be reused or reproduced in part or in whole, either in printed or electronic form without the express consent of author.
Please contact me at: email@example.com - (936) 396-6103.
all text & images: © 2020 Philip M. Goldstein ~ www.nyctollscrip.info