Good morning. It’s Friday. We’ll look at a change that’s coming to the Lincoln Tunnel over the weekend — total cashlessness. We’ll also get details on the city’s plan to require app services to pay delivery workers significantly more money.
Credit…Ted Shaffrey/Associated Press
After tomorrow, your money won’t be good at the Lincoln Tunnel. Your cash money, anyway.
Starting Sunday — very early Sunday — there won’t be anyone in the tollbooths. All tolls will be collected by E-ZPass. Drivers who don’t have an electronic toll device will pay by mail. The Port Authority of New Jersey, which runs the tunnel, will track them down. Overhead cameras will snap a photograph of their license plates.
This time, the Port Authority really means it. The tunnel went cashless for several months early in the pandemic because of concerns about how the coronavirus was spread. Drivers on the way into Manhattan — tolls for the Lincoln Tunnel are collected only on the New Jersey side — could not hand over crumpled bills until the toll takers began accepting cash again in October 2020.
Going cashless at the Lincoln Tunnel is the last step in a $500 million project to bring modern toll collecting to all of the Port Authority’s tunnels and bridges.
The agency says drivers at the Lincoln Tunnel can expect to breeze right through once it goes cashless. Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority, called the change “a win-win” for drivers because it would shorten their commutes and reduce accidents in toll lanes. The agency also said that cashless tolls would save 1.3 million gallons of fuel and reduce air pollution, because 11,500 fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide will go into the air annually.
So, who will go last? Who will pay the last cash toll of $16 for a passenger car — and will he or she hand over 16 dollar bills? Or maybe three fives and a one?
The Port Authority said it had not designated anyone to be the last person to pay the toll with cash. Officials do not expect anyone to camp outside the tunnel to claim the distinction, as someone did in January 1945, to be the first when the north tube opened. His name was Michael Katen.
Separately or together, he and his brother, Omero C. Catan, were first at hundreds of the municipal marvels that made New York what it was in the first half of the 20th century.
Catan, who died in 1996, was the first to buy a token on the Eighth Avenue subway in 1932, the first to skate across the rink at Rockefeller Center in 1936 and the first to put a coin in a New York City parking meter in 1951. Most of the time, Katen was right behind him.
Katen, who had changed the spelling of his name when he was a teenager, spent four days and four winter nights waiting for the north tube of the Lincoln Tunnel to open to traffic. His brother had been first when the first tube had opened in 1937, but in 1945, he was an injured soldier in a hospital in England. He wrote to the Port Authority and asked if Katen could uphold the family tradition by leading the way through the north tube.
The agency said yes. Katen, who died in 2008, parked his Pontiac and waited.
“I wasn’t dressed for winter,” Katen said in 1995. “I didn’t think it was going to be that cold.” To save fuel, he kept the engine turned off. “I was afraid the car wouldn’t start.”
The sun will be out, and it won’t be too cold. Expect a high of 46 and a low tonight around freezing.
In effect until Dec. 26.
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The push to pay delivery workers $23 an hour
App services like Uber Eats, Grubhub and DoorDash may soon have to pay delivery workers significantly more money.
The city’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection has proposed requiring them to pay an average hourly rate of at least $23.82, not including tips, by 2025. The agency will hold a hearing on the proposal next week and is expected to put it in place next year.
Los Deliveristas Unidos, a group that has fought for protections for delivery workers, is demanding $5 an hour more, or $28.82 per hour, to help cover deliverers’ expenses.
Under the city’s plan, the minimum hourly rate would apply to a worker’s total “trip time” each week, which would be calculated from the moment a worker accepts an order to the moment the delivery is complete. It would include the time it takes the deliverer to go to a restaurant and the time he or she spends waiting to pick up the order, as well as the time spent in traffic on the way to making the delivery. The rate would be phased in over two years, starting at $17.87 per hour next year.
The app services would also have to pay the minimum hourly rate on the total amount of “on-call time” that all the delivery workers collectively spend waiting for orders each week.
The app services say the city’s plan would increase their labor and delivery costs, which could mean higher prices for customers and fewer orders for restaurants. They also maintain that it could mean less flexible schedules for workers. “These workers are going to be pitted against each other to get the best time and location,” Josh Gold, a spokesman for Uber Eats, told my colleague Winnie Hu.
Currently, app-based food delivery workers earn an average of $14.18 an hour, including tips and payments from the apps, according to a city report. But their expenses run $3.06 per hour, and their take-home pay can drop to as little as $4.03 per hour without tips.
The proposed $23.82 hourly rate includes $2.26 an hour to cover expenses and another $1.70 an hour because deliverers do not have workers’ compensation insurance. The base rate of $19.86 per hour is intended to match the minimum pay rate for Uber and Lyft drivers.
William Medina, a delivery worker in Queens who is a member of Los Deliveristas Unidos, is all too aware that time is money, especially when he waits. And waits. Thirty minutes can go by without an order. Sometimes he waits longer. And if there is no order, there is no money.
“I’m always ready,” said Medina, an immigrant from Colombia who makes an average of $150 to $200, mostly in tips, for working up to 12 hours a day. He rides a used moped that he bought for $3,800 and spends about $300 a month on expenses, including gasoline and GPS tracking in case it is stolen.
“For me, $5 more is good,” he told Hu, “but it’s not enough.”
No time for that
Overheard in a Greenwich Village hardware store while buying an extension cord.
“I don’t have time to teach New Yorkers how to be New Yorkers,” a cashier mutters after finishing a call with a customer.
— Leslie Breeding
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
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Melissa Guerrero, Morgan Malget and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team [email protected].