EZPass Toll System Saves Tons Of Money… So Maryland Wants To Charge People For It

from the brilliantly-stupid dept

Electronic toll systems have become quite popular around the country — and have been proven time and time again to be amazingly successful on both sides of the equation: they help ease traffic by speeding cars through toll booths, and they greatly decrease the costs involved in managing a toll system, by decreasing the number of toll-takers necessary. In fact, many states offer incentives for using such systems — including here in California, where the tolls are cheaper if you’re using FastPass (what it’s called here). On the east coast, many different states have all agreed to use a single system, called EZPass, which I remember being quite popular (and useful) in New York many years ago. Maryland is one of the states that uses EZPass, but as Wayne White points out, that state is now going in the other direction when it comes to incentives: it’s going to start charging you $1.50/month just for having an EZPass device, whether or not you use it. So, this great device helped ease traffic and should have significantly lowered the costs for the Maryland Transportation Authority, and it’s response is to charge everyone for it?

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Comments on “EZPass Toll System Saves Tons Of Money… So Maryland Wants To Charge People For It”

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DeepPockets says:

EZ-Pass stinks

I got a free EZ Pass device when I lived in Jersey and found it stunk. If you don’t slow down enough you can expect a letter in the mail charging like $35 for not paying the toll. This can also happen for a number of other reasons.

If they implement some plan to charge me extra for that privilege I’ll revert to just acting like I throw change in the basket and fly on through for free and toss the useless EZ pass box in the garbage.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: EZ-Pass stinks

>If they implement some plan to charge me extra for
>that privilege I’ll revert to just acting like I
>throw change in the basket and fly on through
>for free and toss the useless EZ pass box in the garbage.

You need to return the EZ pass or they charge $25/unit to not return it.

How fast do you have to be going for it not to register? There is a 55MPH toll gate on a DE road. It may be they got you for violating the posted speed limit which is pretty low on the Garden State Parkway.

Get rid of NJ one anyhow they now charge you a buck a month for it. Find a state without a monthly charge like VA. VA calls it FAst Pass but it is the same thing. It doesn’t matter where the tag is from although it is a pain in the tail when the battery in it dies to get a replacement.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: EZ-Pass stinks

The tolls on the FL turnpike (and the toll roads around Orlando, FL) use EZPass and those will clock you and charge you at speeds up to about 90 mph. Supposedly you’ll get ticketed if you’re speeding excessively, but the most I’ve ever heard anyone getting is a written warning in the mail.

That it doesn’t register in your state has to be BS.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

are intended to offset declining toll revenues and increases in the cost of maintaining the state’s toll facilities

Basically, governments use budgets opposite from everyone else. Most people and companies figure out how much money they have coming in over the budget period, and then decide how to spend it.

Governments figure how money money they’ll need for a given budget period, and then decide how they’ll raise the money to obtain it.

Yakko Warner says:

Not here yet, but...

In Colorado, only this year has the “Express Toll” saved you money. Before, the rates were the same, beeper or no. (You did have the advantage of not stopping for the booths, though.)

Of course, what happened at the turn of the year is all the toll rates went up; they just didn’t go up as much if you had the beeper.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is not the least bit surprising.

When ATMs were new, there were no charges for
using them. Then, people got hooked.

When cable was new, no commercials.
Then people got hooked.

At one time, you could resell your airline
tickets. But, the airlines wanted more money,
too — so they put a stop to that.

When satellite radio was new, no commercials.

When the internet was new, no commercials.
Now everyone is sniffing your stream to make
an extra buck.

Anonymous Coward says:

Here in Illinois we have the “IPass” they charge a one time $10 fee when you first get the box as a “lease” fee. Other than that you don’t pay any monthly charge for it and it automatically recharges off of your credit card once it goes below $10 left on the account. Of course you still have the problem here where it charges you more if you’re following too close to a truck. Oh and the fact that we have BLAGO as our own little self appointed emperor.

Anonymous Coward says:

Here in Texas, it’s free for an EZTag (it’s a sticker with a chip in it). Just have to have an account where you have to maintain a minimum balance. You save $.25 when you go through a major toll booth. In Houston, they’ve even hooked it up to airport parking. You go through the booths if you have an eztag and it automatically emails you a receipt.

David says:

Similar stuff in Dallas area. It is cheaper to use the Tolltag, and they no longer charge for the tag itself. As for slowing down, I had heard at one point that the reader worked at speeds of up to 200 MPH. Might have been the camera for plates, tho. I’ve zipped thru the booths pretty fast and it’s always read my tag. Even if it doesn’t, if they get your license, it is connected to the tag account, and you just get charged as normal.

Chris says:

MD squeezes EZPass users other ways too

They take a photo of EVERY license plate that passes through, and match them up with the transponder number. If they don’t match they mail you a ticket. So if you move the transponder to your other car “just for this trip” and drive through MD, it will cost you big time. Ask me how I know….

Sean McGinnis says:

As a Marylander, I can explain this easily: the People’s Republic of Maryland taxes everything. EVERYTHING. Money by the truckload flows into Annapolis to be spent on…well, something. I’m not entirely clear what. I can only assume that there is a power plant somewhere in the state that runs on burning money.

Celes says:

Re: Re:

You might be right about that! We must be running out of things to raise taxes on after the past couple of years. But let’s not forget that our government really NEEDS this money; after all, how else can we fund the… um… wait, what are they doing with it again?

Sometimes the MD government reminds me a lot of that old Robin Hood animated movie.
“B-but, sherriff, that money’s for the poor!”
“That’s right. And I’ll just take it for poor Prince John. Every little bit helps.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Tolls are the devil's work

Ok… after travelling through DC I realized that you and I probably pay for dirty politicians daily tolls. I mean we gave them that big ass center lane on 95, why not pay their tolls too, right?

So roughly $20 bucks (low estimate) to and from work per politician equals how many hundreds of millions of wasted tax dollars??? I’m no mathmatician, but it sounds kinda like an Obama “tax cut” if you know what I’m sayin…

Daniel says:

NJ Charges Statement Fees Too!

In addition to charging a fee for having EZPass, NJ also charges a statement fee just so you can see how much they are charging you! In NJ we also have the Garden State Parkway that was supposed to have tolls eliminated when the project was paid off. If you believed that, I’ll bet you also have title to the Brooklyn Bridge!

Brian Stein says:

Losing Proposition

While this post mentions that electronic toll collection is a benefit for both sides, it ignores the largest benefit to the state. Becauase most states require you to maintain a minimum balance on the account, they gain sigificant profits from the interest on all of that stored value. Charging for the service may decrease overall participation, costing them their biggest earning potential.

Anonymous Coward says:

i am suddenly happy i have pikepass not ez-pass, they only want to know how many axles the vehicles have, and all your license plate numbers, if the pass doesn’t register, they take the numbers from a pic of your plate and scan it through their registered vehicle database and charge the proper toll fee, and they dont care if you use it in a non-registered vehicle as long as it still has the same number of axles. also its cheaper to go down the pike with a pikepass than to pay cash. they dont charge monthly fees, only send you a notification if it dips below $25. essentially its like getting a gift card with no nonusage fees and getting a discount because you used the gift card.
god i love oklahoma, they may do some things wrong, but they do a whole lot more right.

LostSailor says:

As noted, EZPass issued by New Jersey charges $1 a month; at least seven of the managing agencies in the EZ-Pass system charge some sort of fee, so this is nothing new. In many instances, the fee is offset by discounts, sometime significant, on the actual toll paid. In New York City, there are significant discounts for all bridge and tunnel tolls, for example (plus you can pay for parking at area airports with the EZ-Pass tag).

But Mike should post some evidence that these systems “Save tons of money” for the toll system. They can actually cost a lot of money to implement to start, and the jobs of toll-booth personnel that might be lost are likely made up with back-office staff at the managing agencies.

To take just one agency, the NY Thruway Administration, E-ZPass account management costs about $24 million annually, and administration fees are only $1.5 million (E-ZPass violations are, interestingly, $3 million). So you can’t just dismiss or discount the costs of administering the system.

Let’s not make too big a deal of this.

Mark Rosedale (profile) says:

convenience fee

When I first moved out on my own I started paying all of my bills via credit card for simplicity sake. Most bills would allow me to pay online via a credit card so that is what I did. Well there was one, the power bill, that charged you a couple of bucks to pay with your credit card. They called it a convenience fee. I flipped, and refused to use that method to pay my bill (I eventually switched to online banking).

Sure it is a convenience to me, but it is also a major convenience to them as well. I know they probably have to pay a certain amount to the credit card company, but when none of my other bills were charging an amount for credit transactions I figured they were just trying to milk me for money. Anyway this seems like the same idea. We’ll try to make the cost low enough that you ignore the price. I have an ezpass, but I don’t use it enough to justify even $.50 a month. Sorry not going to happen!

Carol says:

Free E-z pass

I am a resident of Maryland. In July 2009 they will begin charging a $1.50 a month maintenance fee. I looked over a lot of the E-z Pass state sites and found that many charge for maintenance fees or for a non-refundable transponder fee. Virginia was free for three vehicles but the best one I found was the Peace Bridge E-z Pass in NY. It is free for up to 4 vehicles on one account if you elect to use the automatic credit card charge plan. It starts off with a $25 fee and recharges automatically once your account falls to $10. The Peace Bridge Authority is not part of the New York Transit Authority. The E-z Pass is the same as all the other states and can be used wherever the pass is accepted. Hope that helps someone. I am going to cancel my Maryland account and have applied for a new one through Peace Bridge. We pay enough taxes in Maryland!! http://www.pbaezpass.com

00320jake says:

Re: Oh and since they hid it so well...

Yup, there’s a near-miniscule blurb on my latest statement that says the $1.50 monthly fee will be added starting on July 1, 2009, but the MD EZ Pass online applications, brochures, and overall website were “conveniently” not updated recently enough to tell people that they are about to be back-door-taxed.

For reasons not related to the fee, I had decided to google for how to close my EZ Pass account, and I came across these commentaries about the fee. Otherwise, they hid it well enough that I never would have noticed. Congratulations Premier O’Malley – you’re going to make up that lost state revenue from the people who can least afford it in this economy – the dumb ones who don’t pay attention to this stuff.

Just canceled my MD one and signed up for a VA one.

NONdrivers on YouTube says:

I’m surprised nobody mentioned that if you have a MD Commuter plan with EZpass they charge you for unused tolls….so I buy tolls upfront at a cheaper rate, then pay for the ones I haven’t used at full rate?

Also, I paid a deposit to get mine before they were charging the $1.50 a month, so I asked what happens to all the deposits since they are now charging monthly instead of an initial deposit. they told me “your deposit gets absorbed”.

I wish I could do that “hey you stole my wallet!…..no I didn’t, I absorbed it!”

Ted Daly says:

Maryland EZ Pass...worst service, ever!

Maryland’s EZ Pass is just another rip-off from the DOT. My credit card expired last year, and rather than let me know about it, they just let me accumulate violations. I reluctantly paid, and updated my account to reflect the new card number. Despite that, they charged me with 2 more violations after the update, claiming that I never updated the card, even though I paid the balance and set a new “replenishment threshold” at the same time, and printed out the page showing I did so. After having seen the proof, they are still denying it. Their site contains zero information about how to close the account. Besides, now the EZ-Pass lanes are the only ones backed up at the toll plaza, because everybody has one. Maryland has a long, thoroughly-deserved history of DOT and MVA rip-off programs, and they have proudly added EZ-Pass to the list. Avoid them if you possibly can!

Anonymous Coward says:

NJ and all the others are making it more difficult NOT to have an EZ-Pass. I’d go so far as to say, they are making it dangerous not to have one. Sometime soon, someone is going to sue of the death of a passanger or driver because they were killed in their attempt to get over to those one or 2 booths that still take money.
Then we’ll see everyone run for conver – though I think that would be somewhat difficult in New Jersey’s Gov.’s case.

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