Is This a Good Way to Pay For Electronic Tolls?

“Toll roads should accept cash. At the very least, they should have an online system where you can pay within 24 hours of using the toll road or toll bridge. That would be good for people renting cars who otherwise have to pay insane fees.”

Is This a Good Way to Pay For Electronic Tolls?

What you just read was this portion of a comment which was posted by derek — who is a reader of The Gate — in response to this recent article pertaining to Philadelphia, where a law was passed that requires all businesses to accept cash while the nearby Pennsylvania Turnpike will eventually have a system of only electronic tolling by the year 2021.

Also in response to the aforementioned article, Barry Graham wrote this comment that “New York has a new pay per trip plan linked to a checking account that doesn’t require a pre-payment. When I left New York, I kept my NY EZPass open. There is no requirement to live in a state to get an EZPass. I think this would work.”

I did not know about the new Pay Per Trip plan or exactly when it was implemented, so I looked it up — and according to the official Internet web site of the New York Service Center of E-ZPass, Pay Per Trip with Standard Plan is “a ‘post-paid’ plan that enables you to link your E-ZPass account to your bank checking account and pay for all your E-ZPass tolls once per day, direct from your bank account, for the days on which you have E-ZPass toll usage. No money is held as ‘prepaid balance’ like with the other E-ZPass plans, there is no need to provide a credit card number, and your account is not charged until you incur tolls (except in some circumstances on the night you sign up). If you optionally provide a backup credit card payment form you will not be required to maintain a deposit for each tag on your account, and the credit card will also serve as a secondary payment method if the bank account withdrawal fails for some reason.”

My Thoughts of the Pay Per Trip Plan

From what I have read — and I have not used it yet at the time this article was written — the Pay Per Trip plan of the New York Service Center of E-ZPass seems to be close to the utopia of how electronic tolling should be fairly implemented to all motorists, as according to the frequently asked questions of the Pay Per Trip plan: anyone is eligible for this plan; no tag deposit of ten dollars is required if an optional credit card is offered as a backup payment to a bank account, which is only debited when new tolls are incurred; and no extra fees or costs seem to be charged for this plan…

…but I do have some thoughts:

  • I would like to see an option for the credit card to be the primary payment instead of funds being taken directly from a bank account.
  • If the potential for a mistake or error — which could occur with automatically drawing funds electronically and directly from a bank account — happens, does the motorist have any recourse; and if so, how difficult would correcting the error be for the motorist?
  • The Pay Per Trip plan seems to only be for vehicles which are registered for it — but I could be mistaken. If it were registered for motorists instead of vehicles, then customers of rental car companies may have a chance of avoiding having to incur and pay usurious fees which rental car companies charge whenever one of their vehicles triggers an electronic toll.

Summary

The concept of not slowing down to pay a toll may be appealing; but I have been opposed to all-electronic tolling for a number of reasons, as I believe that motorists — who are just as much consumers who drive on the highway as customers of businesses are consumers as well — should have more of a choice on how they prefer to pay their tolls so that everyone wins. In my opinion, every toll collection point should have at least one toll booth with which physical coins and dollar bills are accepted for payment — and perhaps even a second toll booth through which exact change is required with no attendant to man it…

…but electronic tolling systems which offer an easy way to pay the toll — with no additional charges, such as service fees — while simultaneously billing the owner of the transponder and not the owner of the vehicle itself gives me one fewer reason to be opposed to all-electronic tolling. With the ways in which technology saves toll authorities money, penalizing a motorist with service fees and other additional costs simply because he or she does not live in an area where toll roads are prevalent is wholly unfair. Just charge that motorist the cost of the toll and be done with it.

Articles at The Gate pertaining to the topic of electronic tolls include:

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

9 thoughts on “Is This a Good Way to Pay For Electronic Tolls?”

  1. Barry Graham says:

    Thanks Brian for the second mention and also for researching my suggestion. I agree that credit cards should be an option and I also agree that it ought to be possible to pay after the event. You can do this in Chicago and I did it many times in a rental car. In London you can do this too with the Congestion charge.

  2. Barry Graham says:

    Also in another part of the EZPass help, it says that you don’t have to have a car in order to use EZPass, in fact when I used rental cars and was living in New York, I did this often. See here https://www.e-zpassny.com/en/faq/rentalcars.shtml

  3. Barry Graham says:

    Also see here – the fourth question https://www.e-zpassny.com/en/faq/account.shtml

  4. Karen H says:

    You have no clue what it’s like working in a tollbooth, it really takes a physical and emotional toll on a person. People get in their cars and turn into rude jackasses.
    When I retired from the PA Turnpike I was so glad to get away from the traveling public.

  5. derek says:

    From now on, I better think carefully before writing. At least the first paragraph of my comment was not quoted in this article, the part about extortion. ha ha ha

    1. Jackson Adams says:

      I remember. You called credit cards extortion because banks offer unsecured credit to people completely voluntarily and consensually so they can make choices about their lives, and businesses can choose to accept them instead of paying through the nose in cash management fees and through employee theft. Brian delegitimized himself by quoting you.

  6. beachmouse says:

    As a Floridian who watched the Great SunPass Billing Fiasco of 2018 unfold, I’m now in the camp that says linking a toll account to a checking account is one of the most outright stupid things you can do for the road. Because the companies that do that kind of thing are often really not that great at accuracy. Somewhere around 2017, the Florida Turnpike Authority decided to outsource billing services to Conduent even though the company had a poor track record with other toll authorities.

    And then Conduent promptly had a catastrophic meltdown when it tried to go online to manage the FTA system to the point where the company didn’t bill customers for 2-3 months and then had massive errors when it tried to play catch up billing. There were people who were getting hit with four figure bills for, say, June 2018, even though they had proof that the car with the transponder sticker on it was physically located in, say, Vermont, or in long term parking at the Miami airport while the owner of the vehicle was in Belize and such.

    The people who had their SunPass account bill to a credit card had a far better pathway to contesting the Conduent errors than the people who had tolls pulled right out of their checking accounts to put it mildly.

  7. Karen H says:

    Besides it’s all about the $$$, it costs less than a dollar for ezpass and it costs between $3-5 to pay UNION toll collectors, benefits, and pensions. I look at it this way, people manage to find their way around without toll collectors on other interstates right?! Taxes pay for DOT roads and tolls pay for toll roads, and believe me the turnpikes are very powerful. Politicians stick their ugly heads into everything, everyone wants in on the golden goose!
    Pennsylvania has toll by plate, they take a photo of your plate and send you the bill, not bad, but ezpass is cheaper. When the mainline goes completely cashless they’ll have it there too. Right now it’s only on the smaller arms of the turnpike.

  8. Chris says:

    This is why I started Rental Car Transponders for drivers in Florida. Get a fully active transponder for $7.50 and pay a service charge of 50¢ per toll. Beats anything the rental car companies are going to offer you.

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