The Pain of Electronic Tolls is Felt by More and More FlyerTalk Members
“I n what may seem like a conspiracy by a local authority and a rental car company, FlyerTalk member milohoss was charged $25.80 by Hertz for driving a rental car across the Golden Gate Bridge — which normally charges a six dollar toll.”
This was the first paragraph of an article which I originally wrote on Sunday, May 12, 2013 — almost exactly two years ago — and today, the pain of electronic tolls is felt by more and more FlyerTalk members.
“Furious about this charge for not signing up for the PlatePass system, milohoss was strongly considering filing a class action lawsuit to “ban these toll scams on bridges or tunnels where you do not have any other options.”
I also reported on how some FlyerTalk members chastised milohoss — who usually pays cash at toll booths and does not use express lanes — for not performing due diligence on the fact that payment of tolls on the Golden Gate Bridge are all electronic with no option to pay cash. They also said that milohoss could have used a different bridge; but milohoss argued that there really is no other option to drive to Marin from San Francisco and that a detour via another bridge would significantly add time to the drive — not to mention use more fuel.
Rental Car Companies Can Benefit Handsomely
“Then in 2014, I made the completely unavoidable mistake of driving south over the now-cashless Golden Gate Bridge in a rental car”, complained FlyerTalk member bdschobel. “This time, the $7 toll cost me almost $40!!!!! I was really furious about that one. There was no reasonable alternative route and no way to pay in cash or even by credit card. This is a problem that really needs to be solved. One solution would be for the car-rental companies to charge back only their actual costs and not let third-party billing companies triple or quadruple those costs at our expense.”
Rental car companies have been getting in on the act and profiting handsomely as well by charging customers with administration and equipment fees to the point where it is perceived as gouging; and if that is not bad enough, the amount of money to pay tolls seem to keep increasing.
Even worse is if you are unsure as to whether or not you passed by an electronic toll stanchion which recorded your license plate information. Ignorance is no excuse; so if you receive a bill as your first indication that you owe money for a toll, be prepared to pay as not paying a toll can take a toll on you.
Electronic Tolls: An International Issue
The United States is far from the only country where electronic tolls are becoming pervasive to the point of irritation, inconvenience, prohibitive cost and annoyance. Electronic tolls in South Africa have been called a form of “economic apartheid”; and the Highway 407 Express Toll Route — which is equipped with only electronic tolls — in the Canadian province of Ontario has left many motorists financially strapped and without a legal way to register their vehicles to the point where it has been deemed an “abuse of power”.
Errors in Electronic Tolling
How would you like to receive a fine of $17,000.00 for $36.00 in unpaid tolls? That is what reportedly happened to one frustrated motorist who regularly commutes from Gaithersburg to Alexandria in the express lanes on the Capital Beltway in the greater Washington, D.C. area and pays the tolls with his E-ZPass account, which is deducted automatically from his credit card.
Billing errors to motorists — which virtually did not exist before the advent of electronic tolls — can be difficult to prove and correct; and the burden is on the motorist who will otherwise be forced to pay more money that he or she was supposed to pay.
I have long been against the practice of tolls in general and have written extensively pertaining to this topic; but to implement electronic tolls for the convenience of only those who are willing to pay extra for that convenience is downright unfair — especially when there is no viable alternative route…
…but if there must be electronic tolls, then at least offer choices of alternatives to motorists:
- Provide a minimum of one lane reserved for those who wish to pay their tolls with cash or credit cards
- Offer a transponder or alternative form of payment free of charge with no administrative fees which as easy to understand and use as possible
- Have variable tolls only for certain lanes of the highway — such as offered on certain highways in the greater Atlanta metropolitan area
“Is it only me or does no one else set their GPS to ‘avoid tolls’. Even on a visit to New Jersey, passing through New York. I did get confused because you can’t avoid a toll crossing from New Jersey to Connecticut and it was sending me all the way up to Albany; but once I figured it out, I reprogrammed it for that one instance and paid the toll”, advised FlyerTalk member Yellowjj. “No problems in the many years I’ve been traveling and handling a gps.”
You can also use Google Maps as an option to avoid tolls, as shown in the screen shot below…
…but be aware that Google Maps is not always accurate; so do your homework. Most highways with tolls have their own Internet web sites where you can conduct some research pertaining to additional information about tolls which are charged to motorists.
We cannot be complacent about the proliferation of electronic tolls. I do everything I can to avoid them; and the more people who avoid electronic tolls, the more the entities which operated roads and highways with electronic tolls will feel the pain and be forced to offer more viable alternatives which are cost-effective to consumers. Money is the only message which members of the management team seem to understand; and as long as complacency abounds pertaining to electronic tolls, they will keep increasing both in expense and prevalence…
…otherwise, we will continue to keep hearing about instances such as what happened to the niece of FlyerTalk member SanDiego1K on a toll road in southern California: “Our niece drove our car on this road. She was oblivious to the sign. I subsequently got a fine for $125 or so. She paid, and was mortified.”
She continues on about how “There is a bridge in Seattle that is the same thing. It’s a challenge to read the sign while driving, remember the website, and get the toll paid.”
There is absolutely no reason or excuse to place otherwise innocent law-abiding motorists through such frustration, inconvenience and embarrassment just to drive on a highway to get from point A to point B. In the meantime, ensure you plan your routes whenever you travel to a destination where highways and roads equipped with electronic tolls exist so that you are not surprised with hefty bills loaded with fees when you arrive back home.
What are your thoughts and suggestions to what seems to be an increasing problem pertaining to electronic tolls?