PA Turnpike: Going EZ Pass Only?

Maybe a PA doper might know: Is the PA Turnpike supposed to go EZ Pass only? I checked their website, and it appears this has not happened yet. But, it has been mentioned. Is this still in the works, and how would a non-EZ pass person pay tolls?

They’re considering it. According to the FAQ, “non-E-ZPass customers would receive an invoice to pay tolls based on their license plate image.”

Well, let’s hope the PA Turnpike has improved its license plate capture technology by then.

I live in Indiana, but the rest of my family lives in or around Philadelphia, so my wife and I usually drive back to Philadelphia for the holidays. A couple of years ago, while exiting at the Valley Forge plaza, I accidentally found myself in an EZ-Pass lane. With a large semi directly behind me, backing up wasn’t an option, so I settled for just pulling through, figuring I’d accept the consequences.

As we proceded down the Schuykill expressway, my wife called the number on the turnpike ticket to see what we should do. The lady at the other end of the line told my wife that a picture would have been ptaken of our license plate, and we’d be getting a letter in the mail eventually dunning us for the maximum possible turnpike toll. According to her, we should send back the turnpike ticket and a check for the proper fare amount along with a short explanation, and all would be well.

Fast forward a few months, and while cleaning out a basket of miscellaneous ‘stuff’, we find the turnpike ticket. Realizing that we’d never been contacted about the skipped toll, and worried that we might soon be on Pennsylvania’s “Most Wanted” list, I called the number on the ticket a second time. After explaining to the gentleman on the other end of the line what had happened, and that we’d never gotten the follow-up letter, he checked their computer database and told me that there was no record of an outstanding toll due for either our license plate number, or for the number on the turnpike ticket.

“So I guess you’re off the hook”, he said, with a chuckle. I thanked him and hung up, and that was all that ever came of it.

So I don’t know if the turnpike’s system couldn’t deal with out-of-state plates (which would seem a major oversight), or if the capture camera at that toll booth just wasn’t working correctly, or something else. But if they’re going to rely on that technology to invoice the non-EZ Pass users, let’s hope it’s improved by then.

Oh, and as an aside, we did buy an EZ Pass shortly after that trip.

I travel to Texas on a regular basis and there are expressways there that are EZ Pass only. How do I handle it? I don’t drive on those expressways.

It’s kind of a scam. I don’t know about the Texas system, but the New York system is based on you pre-paying for your EZ-Pass. You are supposed to deposit money into your EZ-Pass account and then it draws tolls out of your account as you drive. I don’t see why I should pay for a bridge toll a month before I drive across the bridge. You’re also required to put a deposit down to get your EZ Pass tag. And you have to get a separate EZ-Pass system for each vehicle you own, which makes no sense. Why not let me have an EZ-Pass I can use in any vehicle if I’m paying the same toll anyway?

The Bay Area FastTrak system works the same way, but I have no problem with it. The amount it deposits into your account depends on your activity. When I was commuting across the Bay it took a lot, now that I only go over a bridge twice a month it only puts in $25. No deposit either, but I signed up early.

But no toll takers is ridiculous. I read that rental companies are now going to charge a $25 service fee if you cross a bridge in their car. Supposedly they will rent you a pass, but it is not clear that everyone will ask or even know they are going to need one. The Golden Gate bridge is or is going to be FastTrak only.

Little Nemo:

Don’t know where you get this idea from. I can take my EZ-Pass transponder from my car and use it in a borrowed car any time I want. I’ve done this numerous times.

That’s how Highway 407 in Ontario works; there are no tollbooths at all, just transponder-detecting doohickeys and license plate cameras.

Personally, I think electronic tolling is wonderful, except that it screws over anyone who is not a regular commuter on the roads in question. And, frankly, it looks like the toll road administrators don’t care.

Florida, which has a very large tourist industry, has converted to the all-electronic (no toll takers) model on many of their roads.

This has provided many car rental companies with another excuse to fee-gouge their customers. Almost every rental car is registered with SunPass (the Florida version of E-Z Pass) whether the customer requests it or not. Different rental companies have different policies on how to bill their customers. (And these policies change from time to time.)

For example, with Dollar or Thrifty, you are offered a choice at the time of rental: $7.99 per day to cover tolls (whether you incur them or not) or get billed for the actual tolls you use plus a $15 per toll administrative fee.

With Hertz and Avis, there is nothing to elect, but if you pass through an electronic toll point even once during your rental, they bill you a fee of $2.95 for every day of your rental (including days you didn’t incur tolls) plus the actual cost of the tolls. So the poor guy who unintentionally passes through a tolling area on his way back to the airport on the last day of his rental gets billed for every day of his rental (up to the maximum weekly/monthly charge) plus the toll even if that was the only toll he ran up.

And other companies have different variations of these policies.

Last couple of times in Denver, the rental car companies really pushed the toll transponder rental. First thing they asked was whether or not I would be traveling on E-470 which is all-electronic. I imagine that they will be selling it since its $10 added on the rental bill whether or not you use the toll. I just wonder if people will have the sense to consider whether or not they will be driving on toll roads on their trip.

Ummm . . . E-470 is not all-electronic. It’s licence plate tools too so you’re getting scammed. I just got a transponder since we use E-470 all of the time to get to the airport and its easier to prepay than pay-per-use.

I used to do this, too.

Then I got a bill in the mail for over $200 in tolls and fines.

Apparently you can’t do that with Illinois’ I-Pass. (Or you couldn’t 2 years ago.)

No, your problem was that if you don’t register the car, and the transponder doesn’t register, you get a fine instead of a toll. You don’t necessarily need >1 transponder, but you do need every car license plate registered or you will get fined every time it doesn’t read.

Electronic/license plate is all the same to me. There aren’t any toll booths where I can pay cash. And if the car rental guys get a bill, then they are going to charge me the admin fees. I’d rather just pony up for the transponder if I think I’ll need to use E470.

So you register a borrowed car? How does that work? Can the car be registered on multiple accounts?

Well, you can do this, as in you can physically put the E-Z Pass receiver into another car and pay tolls with it like that, you’re just not *supposed *to. It’s in the service agreement. Given the ubiquitousness of digital video these days the tollgates may take a picture of every car, not just ones that don’t pay, and randomly cross check and see if they match the tag’s registered vehicle, but I doubt it. I live in the Hudson Valley and our local paper just did a story that E-Z Pass has over $35 million in uncollected tolls. IOW deadbeats who have gone thru without paying, had their plates photographed & gotten the tickets in the mail, but just ignored them. As such they’ve had to put more police cruisers at the tolls to actually pull over people.

I also think the ‘pre-pay’ part is bullshit. They’ve built this huge toll-collecting system infrastructure, and yet they can’t seem to link it to EBT systems?!? I imagine it’s done this way to make more revenue (i.e. the interest on all the prepaid balances) with the justification to help offset those initial infrastructure-building costs. But once in place it’ll *never *get changed.

Overall I’ve found E-Z Pass to work extremely well. So much so that it seems ridiculous to me when I find myself in someone else’s car stuck in a huge tollbooth traffic jam because they don’t have one!

I checked on the two states I do the most traveling in: New York and Texas. The Texas EZ Pass website clearly states an EZ Pass is only good for one vehicle.

The New York website doesn’t directly address this issue. But it does say that the tag has to be attached to the vehicle and that the vehicle has to be registered with the tag. From this I assumed it was a “one tag - one vehicle” program.

So I’m surprised to see you can use it in borrowed vehicles. Are you sure it’s not just a situation where you haven’t been caught doing it?

That’s probably like any other unpaid traffic ticket. It’s not worth the police department’s time to chase people down for these payments. But those unpaid tickets are all going to end up waiting for you when you go to renew your vehicle registration.

Right – and for instance, last time I rented a car in the NE Corridor I got a moveable unit I could suction-cup on and off the windshield of the rental, so at least National Car Rental has a contract by which they can switch their tags around their fleet, and my contract had warnings about attaching the unit to any other vehicle. But in many of the other regions of the country the system in place is tag-photograph reader or else a permanently-attached RFID-on-steroids device so the tollpass is forced to be unique to each vehicle.

Around here we are also moving to a mostly-electronic system; at least during the current transitional phase it’s set up so the little traffic light where the coin booth used to be flashes you yellow if your balance is low, or red if you’re overdrawn and you have 48 hours to get that straight, but they have already announced they’ll eventually be going to the overhead-detector no-notice type of set-up.

Our tag system also has to be pre-funded, I suppose the transaction fees for debiting our various bank accounts or credit cards at $0.75-to-$3 increments were considered an uneconomical proposition for the service vendor/Highway Authority/Turnpike Operator as the case may be.

There is a expressway in Canada I think Montreal, that is a electronic toll road only, no toll booths. If you have a transponder you are billed the normal rate, if you don’t they use your licence plate and mail you the bill along with something like a $8 surcharge per use.

I have done this with a rental car. It works like this, if everything goes well at the toll booth there is no issue, you drive through and it is debited to your EZ pass account. If you forget to hold up the transponder :smack: they give you the ‘call EZ Pass’ light.

I called them explaining the situation and had them temporally put the rental car on my account.

Israel’s route 6 works on a principle very similar to Ontario 407; however, both transponder and “video” registration is based on sending the charge directly to your Credit Card provider, so you only pay for tolls you have aready incurred, and in fact up to a month after the fact. You don’t need to “top up” your transponder’s “account.”

“Direct CC Charge” is very popular here, and there seems to be little to no fraud associated with giving a service provider your CC details in order to set this up. At least I have never run into a problem after over 20 years of using the system for a variety of monthly/periodic payments.