Electronic Tolling on PA Turnpike

The Pennsylvania Turnpike wants to go all electronic for tolling. I think the best solution would be to dissolve the Turnpike Commission, and turn the management over to PennDOT (with a stipulation the speed limit remain 65). Then just tear down the tolls and maintain the turnpike with highway funds. Part of the Turnpike’s problem is that Ed Rendell robbed it blind to pay for SEPTA’s inefficiency. I’m not sure how I feel about all electronic tolling, but anything that’ll help prevent old people holding up traffic waiting for a ticket in the EZ-Pass lane is OK by me.

13 thoughts on “Electronic Tolling on PA Turnpike”

  1. I refuse to get an E-Z Pass on the principle that I will not give you an easy way to track my average speed as I go along.

    This makes me miss my old Roadmaster, though. With the fuel cap behind the license plate, I could simply fold that down and cruise along, with no tolls being taxed – and blame it on the attendants in New Jersey! (Note – I did not do this when said car was running, and I don’t intend to do so now – I just avoid the Turnpike.)

    1. EZ-Pass is not an approved speed measurement device for the purpose of fines, etc. So you don’t have to worry about that aspect of it.

      1. While EZ pass can’t be used to issue fines, it still might be used as a tool to let law enforcement know where to target their enforcement methods.

      2. EZ-Pass is not an approved speed measurement device for the purpose of fines, etc.

        That’s true now when they’re trying to get everyone to use it instead of cash (and out of staters will still need some cash terminals), but if EZ-Pass became mandatory, what’s to stop them from using it that way?

        Especially when your Blue state starts going seriously broke and is desperate for money.

  2. At one time I would have been shocked at and opposed to your proposal, but today I think I agree. Before the introduction of EZ-Pass, while it was still only a concept, I was very enthusiastic about it, when it was suggested as a tool for totally “privatizing” the roads, as a step toward “The State withering away.” (Starting from the right.)

    Today I’m more bothered by the constant, subliminal knowledge that something electronic is monitoring me everywhere I go. I may not ever do it, but I like to know that if I wanted to, I could rip the EZ-Pass off my windshield, throw it and my iPhone into a drawer, and drive to say Valley Forge without anyone knowing it — or at least having an instant electronic record of it. And, that it would take me less than two hours to reach Valley Forge, because I could take the Turnpike — anonymously. (Except for those damn toll booth cameras.)

    My dad remembered jumping on a boxcar with no wallet and only a pocketful of silver to travel across several states. Even when I was a kid it was still possible to be anonymous — legally. The State may have owned the roads, but you didn’t necessarily need to have your papers in order to travel them.

  3. I’m ok with this only if I can buy prepaid tolls anonymously with cash, like those prepaid Visa cards.

    1. It’s very easy to take a picture of your license plate as you pass by the reader and match them up. Might not be worth the expense of setting up and maintaing such a system (unless they make sure the speeding fines exceed the latter, see my comment above), but technically it’s easy.

  4. Here in the North Texas area NTTA tore out all the old-fashioned tollbooths and installed automatic licence plate readers. So if you don’t want to be tracked, your only option is to stay off the tollways. If you have a toll tag (an RFID device similar I’m sure to your EZ-Pass) then you get a discounted rate. If you don’t, the system reads your plate and sends you a bill (they call the system Zip-Cash). Provided, of course, they have the correct address to send the bill. They’re somewhat notorious for socking people with outrageous late fees and charges after sending the first few bills to the wrong address.

  5. Here in WA we have something called “Good To Go”, it works similar to the Texas system. If you have the RFID device you are billed directly to your account, otherwise a bill is sent (at twice the regular rate) to the owner of the license place.

    It works… sometimes. A co-worker is fighting with them now because dispite the fact that he has the RFID device, they are billing his device account AND sending separate bills to him from the License place ID.

    Of course it’s not HIS responsibility to PROVE to them that he didn’t drive across the bridge twice at the exact same moment in the same car.

  6. The article uses Colorado as an example of all electronic tolling. I have driven E-470 and the Northwest Parkwy in the Denver area several times when in the area with my offroad rig on my way to and from wheeling in the San Juan Mountains in SW Colorado. I have yet to be sent a bill in the past 3 years for using these so called electronic tolling roads.

    The same goes for the 407ETR in greater Toronto area, if I am driving one my cars with Pensylvania tags. Do not try his with a rental car with Canadian tags since they will bill the rental company and th rental company will bill you the tolls plus a $10 service fee.

  7. I’m not opposed to this, but I don’t see why they couldn’t just go to an all-camera system, and send a bill to the address (or email) of the license plate holder, rather than make everyone get a transponder. You could even set up an account with them to deduct it from your account automatically, if you’re a regular driver.

    The current EZ-pass transponders are kind of a pain in the ass. Still, it’s way too common to find people using the EZ-pass only lanes when they don’t have a transponder, then panicking–either trying to back out of the lane, or doing otherwise stupid things in their car when they’ve made a mistake. I see it a few times a week.

    1. but I don’t see why they couldn’t just go to an all-camera system

      Perhaps the fallacy of sunk costs, a lot has been invested in the current system, both money and people’s reputations.

      You’d need an analysis going forward to see if running the two systems in parallel would be more expensive; my guess is that it would be. There’s also the social cost to everyone who’s used to using EZ-pass, then again is should be cheaper for them to just get a monthly bill.

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