Skip to comments.E-ZPass Sucks
Posted on 12/16/2001 7:30:57 AM PST by ml/nj
This is a tale of bad faith, or possibly fraud, on the part of the government which collects highway tolls here in the northeast. But for those outside the northeast, I should probably explain first what E-ZPass is. And before I do that I should also explain that we are routinely stopped while driving on our highways here by highwaymen demanding tribute. The highwaymen here call the tribute "tolls," but a rose by any other name ... you know. If I want to drive from my home in New Jersey to Belmont Park on Long Island, about an hour away, I must pay $11 to $13 tribute during the course of my round trip.
It's not just the money that is stolen from me. They steal my time too. It is not uncommon to have to wait a half hour to pay a fifty cent toll to leave the New Jersey Turnpike. Even a person who makes minimum wage loses $3 every time this happens, but to the people who whine about the minimum wagers that time is worthless.
Under the guise of making things better, the highwaymen have come up with a new system they call E-ZPass. Drivers request and receive transponders linked to their credit cards, and optionally to their license plates too. Cars equiped with these transponders can drive through special lanes which can detect the transponders without stopping. (Usually there is a speed limit of five to 15 mph to drive through.) Of course "special lanes" don't just materialize by themselves, especially on roadways leading to bridges and tunnels where real-estate is scarce. "Special lanes" are created from lanes where cash had formerly been accepted. It is so bad that on one recent trip through the Queens Midtown Tunnel into Manhattan on a Saturday evening, it appeared to me that there was only one lane accepting cash.
Fortunately (?) for me, I had already acquired an E-ZPass transponder so I did not have to find out how long the poor people on that line had to wait to use the tunnel and, in fact, the growing waits to pay with cash is what drove me to get my transponder.
I had resisted E-ZPass for as long as I could. I don't like the idea of an electronic record being made of my comings and goings. I'm not doing anything I shouldn't be doing. I just don't like it. I think most Freepers will understand. I also believe the entire system to be illegal. One of the legal principles of our monetary system is a concept known as legal tender. Legal tender is that which must be accepted by law for goods, services, or debts. In the United States, one must accept Federal Reserve Notes, just as if they were the equivalent gold or silver coin they pretend to be. Refusal to accept legal tender voids the debt. Paper money is so ingrained in our psyches that one has to reach for a history book to read of times where merchants would accept only gold or silver, and they would refuse to accept paper claimed to be equivalent. When the government would force the merchants to accept the paper, it would hardly have tolerated a scheme where the merchant said he would accept the legal tender if the purchaser would just cool his heels for half an hour while some low level clerk figured out how to account for the payment, but gold and silver was accepted immediately. The E-ZPass scheme is no different.
Now, on to the bad faith ...
Back in October, shortly after I received my E-ZPass transponder, I drove down to Virginia from New Jersey. The tolls begin as soon as one gets on the Garden State Parkway and they don't stop until he gets through one of the Baltimore tunnels. All of the highwaymen, about ten in each direction, now accept E-ZPass. One of the places that accepts E-ZPass is the Delaware Memorial Bridge. I don't cross it very often. I don't recall what the toll is. I don't even recall if it is collected in both directions.
Last week I received a "Notice of Toll Violation" on a piece of paper bearing logos of both "E-ZPass" and the "Delaware River and Bay Authority." They tell me, "Your licence plate was recorded by the system for violation(s) listed below. Our records indicate that your vehicle used the 'E-ZPass Only' land without a valid E-ZPass account or failed to pay the required toll in a staffed lane. In addition to the toll, a $25 administrative fee has been imposed for each violation listed below."
Now I guess their equipment failed to register my transponder on my return trip. It is completley within their ability to have matched my license plate to my E-ZPass account and have sent me a note that they were charging my account an extra $3 because they detected this mistake on the part of their equipment.
Instead they pretend that they tracked me down through the New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles database which matches my license plate, my address and me. Of couse they have all of this information in their own, presumably smaller database which is probably where they got the information from anyway. They even have a record of my having passed through the toll barriers just before and after the one in question, duly recorded by their equipment and entered into their database. I guess they just forgot to look. In their notice to me they never consider the possibility that I might have one of their transponders even though I would guess that the ratio of "violators" who have an E-ZPass transponder and weren't detected to those who are actually trying to beat the toll is quite high. But some government fool thinks this is a fun new way to exact tribute from the little people.
If there's some lawyer here on Free Republic who wants to take these people on with the intent of dismantling the whole system, I might be willing to make myself a test case.
BTW, I spent a number of years living in NY, and I understand what a pain tolls can be, but still, I believe that it's a better way to collect money for the upkeep of roads and bridges than a general tax.
As far as the problem with "the right hand not knowing what the left hand it doing," are you suprised? I had a car for 10 years, and for the first 6, somebody at the DMV managed to enter the wrong license plate number into the system for my car. Each year, I would try to get the DMV to correct the problem, they would enter the correct number, but the renewal would be rejected. The only way to "fix" the problem was for me to get a new set of plates, which, of course, I would have to pay for. Well, screw that! I just kept the plates that I was issued. This went on for 6 years, and during the last year, I was pulled over by the police 3 times, for having plates that "didn't exist!" Of course, I was able to explain it, but it was a hassle. I had finally had enough, and the last time I had to renew my plates, I just got a new set.
User fees are okay with me. (Though it always seems that the stuff I use I pay for, and the stuff other people use I also pay for.) But gasoline taxes work much better for road use taxes. Tolls rob people of their time and sometimes cause accidents. They were originally sold as a way to finance bonds used to build new roads. Those bonds were retired a long time and the tolls should have been retired with them. E.g. $0.25 was the toll necessary to pay for the Throggs Neck Bridge bonds. These bonds were fixed price obligations so the cost of paying them off couldn't have gone up. Whatever, that was 40 years ago and the bonds have been paid off. Now the toll is $3.50. That money is mostly spent to subsidize subway and bus riders. You cannot possibly justify this.
I have heard the stories as mentioned here, about getting your account charged and then a notice where you didn't pay. I can't understand why there isn't a check to see if the motorist has an EZ-pass account if it isn't caught on the first pass through the toll-booth. The Second pass would be initiated if there is a violation recorded. If the "violator" has a valid and active account, then it would be a point for the system to hit the account for the toll due. The answer is probably that they specifically didn't put this step in , because the system is supposed to pay for itseld with the 25.00 fines from "violators".
Also there is the human cost of Ez-pass. At one time, there were many toll collectors. After all these toll booth were manned 24/7. These jobs depended on who you knew, not what you knew. This was a huge source of patronage. The exact change lanes were expanded over the years, especially when the tokens were introduced. Today, there is one manned change lane in each toll booth. What happened to all the toll takers? Are they paying for the Ez-pass system?
Being a supporter of higher technology, I inherently find ez-pass a way to make our lives easier. But there is a cost to this. One is the lack of privacy, the other is getting entagled with another bureauocracy(sp).
The Garden State Parkway is and will always be mismanaged. Those of you out of NJ, will never comprehend why we have 3 toll booths covering approx 25 miles (Belleville to NY state line). You can't imagine what it's like coming into the Paramus at 65 plus miles per hour around a bend, and trying to find the Blue Signed exact change lane. Motorists in front of you are trying to find an active lane, and they are swerving in and out to find the specific toll booth they need. It's a nightmare. (of course, those of us in NJ have been doing this since the age of 17, so it's kind of second nature).
Great line. Wish more of the world was like that that.
RE: Belmont, know you hake tolls, but aren't they better than having to swim the Varazano Narrows! :~)
I used mine for two years with no problems, except for the jerks that wouldn't slow down as they passed through and about ran me over.
Actually "they" have had a similar capability for a number of years, and "they" have used it too.
Everytime one enters one of the major NY to Chicago "turnpikes" he gets a ticket stamped with the entry time. That ticket has to be surrendered (or I guess one could say he lost it, and accept the maximum toll) and the total time to traverse a known distance can be determined. My father was once riding in a car that was given a ticket for completing the Pennsylvania Turnpike at an average 66 mph. The driver protested that it was only one mph over the limit, and was told that he must have forgotten about all those 35 mph tunnels. (This was circa 1960.)
Just out of curiousity I asked them what they would do to me if I refused to pay the fee. They said that there really wasn't anything they COULD do except cancel my EZPass, because the fees weren't authorized by law (they thought them up themselves). Not sure if this is still the case, but I got them to waive the fees and take the charge off my bill.
Yikes! Thank god you're not in IL or you could be talking about me!
There's the difference between States. The tolls on the Virginia Beach Expressway, the Norfolk (Va.) tunnels, and I-95 through Richmond were all lifted in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is still toll for a very good reason: maintenance is horribly expensive. Not sure why Rte 267 from Washington to Leesburg is still toll, but it surely is the best maintained highway in northern Virginia.
Shusssss! Now you did it. They 'heard' you in Hartford. Next thing you know they will implement ONLY an E-Z Pass system. Hartford has spent like there's no tomorrow and they're clobbering the residents and businesses as we speak.
I did that once, intentionally. I had lost one hour in standstill traffic at 11 pm waiting to cross the Tappan Zee Bridge. The kids had been asleep, and this delay woke them up. There was no way I was going to pay them $3 for this mess. Never heard about it since.
The REAL robbers don't need guns. They have the police to do their dirty work.
You get the same situation if you leave Maryland on US 301 - you have to pay a toll to cross the Potomac River going from Maryland to Virginia, but it's free if you're going the other way.
Having driven in NY & NJ recently, I do appreciate your position, though. I would be angry as hell to have to pay those confiscatory rates (every few miles, it seems) in addition to income taxes, sales taxes, etc. The bridges are a joke. The $6 round trip on the GW across the Hudson (paid eastbound) collected from so many thousands of cars weekly ought to be enough to gold-plate the damned bridge by now. OTOH, I never much cared for toll takers who rarely said "thank you", but rather looked at you like you just interrupted their favorite TV show.
For yea in those days, they shall neither buy nor sell save they that bear the mark of the beast on their windshield or on their dash.
I replied, "Robbers usually use a gun."
The "muscle" that backs her is packing heat.
In understand that is why the Mob starting cutting up guys they had wacked in the back room at Satriales Pork Store --they were tired of paying excessive Turnpike tolls to drive a body downstate and dump it in the woods.
I just got back from another visit with relatives in the Chicago area. I have made it very clear that I will never live in an area that has toll roads. I have yet to accept them on any trip. Every single time I approach one my blood pressure goes up. Every single time.
They are one way you can watch government corruption in action, on a daily basis, slapping the peasants in the face and reminding them of just who they are.
If I HAD TO live in such a place, I would desperately seek a way to hide or switch plates only in the IPASS lane and wear groucho glasses and nose every time I approached one. Naturally I would also drive a "common" car on the expressway. Some ex-rental would probably be appropriate.
Here's one for you northeasterners. In slightly more honest times, the two floating bridges in the Seattle area were completely paid off and they actually removed the toll booths.
Ah, those were the good old days. If they had been built in the last 30 years, I doubht the tolls would ever be removed.
Unfortunately, that won't help for long
As someone who works with E-ZPass every day, maybe I can help to clear up some common misconceptions. Please understand that this is NOT an attack on anyone’s intelligence, but 95% (or more) of the problems motorists have with the system can be prevented by simply paying attention.
First, when one decides one wants to have an account...READ the application, along with the rules. This is a contract! The vast majority of folks who apply tear off and fill out the application, leaving the pamphlet containing all the rules with which one is agreeing by signing the application laying on the counter.
Second, KEEP YOUR VEHICLE INFORMATION UP TO DATE! 99% of the accountholders who receive vehicle violations do so because they purchased new vehicles or otherwise changed license plates and failed to update the vehicle information on their accounts. Even trailer plates need to be added. If it’s not in the system, e-zpass doesn’t recognize it. Contrary to popular belief, the license plate is only imaged when the device fails to read. For accountholders, it is a backup system only. For non-accountholders, this enables ezpass to bill the owner of the vehicle for the toll. If you borrow someones car, add it to your account. There is no limit to the number of vehicles your account can have, or whether you must own the vehicle added.
Third, KEEP THE FUNDING INFORMATION UP TO DATE! If your account is funded by automatic credit card replenishment, be sure to update this information if it changes. Your credit card co./bank does not update this for you. If your card is expired in your wallet, it’s expired in the system. If you have the auto-replenishment method, and receive a “low balance” notice, this should be a “light-bulb” flipping on! How would this happen other than a problem with your card?! Check into it immediately; the problem will not solve itself. Even for those who have “a 10K limit” on their card. All this means is that when the computer attempted to re-bill, there was a problem. Don’t take it personnally.
Other FYI: In Maryland the reason for speed limits at the toll booths is because there are personnel who have to cross these lanes...whether it’s collectors, maintenance crews, or police officers. Those of you who are determined to “zip” right through may someday have to live with the fact you’ve injured or even killed someone. Yes, this has happened.
In Maryland, ezpass can be used at any OPEN toll lane. If there is a red light above it, it’s CLOSED. Red still means “don’t go there” or “stop”. Green lights are open cash lanes; flashing yellow means ezpass only. Many folks seem to have a problem figuring this out. Other states may have other rules; this is what signage is for. I’ve found that many people just don’t read road signs anymore.
If you are paying cash, make sure the light is GREEN before you proceed after paying. This is your signal that the payment has been processed. If the light is RED, it still means stop, just like any other red light. A huge number of people toss the money at collectors and just hit the gas, thereby receiving a nasty-gram claiming non-payment of toll. Toll systems are now computerized; if you shoot off too quickly the computer is going to think you didn’t pay.
The first toll road used saw was in Dallas.
Most likely, there was a proble reading the tag that generated the issue. They DO (sorry to say) use the DMV database to track down plates in a room with 15-20 humans staring at account info screens and pictures from the image capture equipment. Most likely you bought a new tag, put you $25 on there and went on a long drive, nevermind that $10 is a deposit) and went through $18 worth of tolls. One quick call (as long as you are willing to pay the toll you did incur) can get you out of the “fee” . Having been an employee, this takes about 3 minutes and 5 clicks of the keyboard...nowhere near $25 worth of work.
E-Z pass is a TOTAL scam from start to finish.
For those of you that used the word “government” in your posts....bad news...E-Z Pass is a middleman for the gov’t, not an agency of the gov’t. We all understand that the more steps you take between the product and the market, the more it costs overall. Welcome to e-z pass.
As for the other issues, e-z pass swears up and down that it “reduces congestion” . lol. Check the google traffic map around five pm. Exclude the accidents, and look where the traffic is...at the toll booths.
The gov’t pays to keep the roads maintained, but for some reason, the perpetual arrogance of the new england psyche has determined that they can do it better. Bull. These roads are among the few in the country that are so heavily DOUBLE TAXED (you taxes pay for roads, why are paying to drive on roads you’ve already paid for?) and they are also among t lowest quality roads in the world. They are GOD AWFUL. And you are paying for it. Nevermind e-z pass, these morons in nj, ny and so on have no business charging you to drive on these roads. If I’m going to pay for the priveledge, it better be smooth as glass and fast as heck. Guess what? It ain’t even close. My household spent nearly $300 in commuter double taxation, er... i mean tolls, in the the last month. I can go to disney land or spend a weekend at the shore for that. let’s see... potholes, smog, horrific traffic....OR....smooth sailing? DUH
The MULTIPLE agencies are a joke as well. They look at what the other agencies do and will demand that they are given a different set of rules so they don’t appear to be mimicing the other agencies. What are you? Six years old? Combine this nightmare into one agency and get a simple set of rules...once that gets settled in, give it up and remove the tolls.
Not to mention that they just dropped 4 million dollars to put up a few signs and rename a bridge...then cried bankruptcy and raised the tolls. It’s government mismanagement and graft at it’s higher form, and then it’s all force fed through a middle man (e-z pass) that’ss charged with doing everything three times to satisfy the agencies desperate need to be individuals (despite the fact they are all one in the same) and they are middle manning all of us into pothole and “fee” heaven.
nope. just a bad pic. this is the rare case...
Sleazy Pass...er e-z pass uses the dmv database.
The solution is to get rid of toll roads altogether rather than try to have big brother replace the tolltakers.
lol. there are tolls in fla. Cali, indiana, illinois, ohio, penn, and the entire new england area. The Fla one is called “Sun Pass”
lemme ask yo...
if you owned a business that everyone had to use....i.e. the tolls.
would you put a system in place to make it easier? of course
would you give em a discount? maybe.
would you be totally transparent and let them know when there was a problem, or would you take advantage of the situation and charge the $25 for screwing up, and blame them? hey... free money is free money....
they are NOT the gov’t. they are flunky middlemen. E-Z pass NY and e-zpass NJ (yes...eparate entities) are both the step children of ACS (affiliated computer Services) a government contractor and middleman. Middlemen means more cost for you.
Glad we don’t have those things in Nevada.
I have already made my mind up.. I will NEVER EVER get any EZ pass. I too, do not like a record made of every trip I take.. I will wait in line for 2 hours or more.. but I value my privacy.
lol. the euro rail pass was only 50 euro a few years ago. unlimited use...busses, trains, ferries, etc... e-z pass is nowhere near that level... but the U.S.A. is the best place in the world...
The problem is that you live in Ratland. You could solve the problem by leaving the God for saken northeast and move to America.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, they call it FasTrak. I guess there's nothing "fast" about it in the northeast, so they call it E-Z instead.
or force the gov’t to stop using e-z pass... and yes...e-z pass gets tons of subppoenas every week...and yes...with the right form filled out...the info flows like water...
If they removed the tolls, there would be no traffic....
I will never visit NJ or the NE.