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.
Believe me. The thought has occurred to me that the only people who do get notices are the ones in their own database.
My opinion would change on a dime on my first receipt of a nasty-gram, however. They're fools if they allow this to remain a problem for users; their focus right now should be on making the system more popular. A substantial toll discount would be one way to go about it; they're saving money on toll collectors, so why not pass along the savings?
As for the congestion problem, it will ultimately shorten the wait time for the remaining cash lanes as the system gains popularity. Right now it's a pinch because so few people use EZpass, but that will change.
As for the "tracking" problem, it does concern me, but it's easily defeated in a pinch. The day I suspect that the government is seriously interested in my whereabouts is the day I loan my transponder to a trusted friend.
I will tell you that the track is a true republic, you either have a winning ticket or you don't, there is no getting by on one's looks or who one knows like you must be used to.
It might be nice, but I a mindful that I am passing by fellow citizens made miserable by our government. It makes it not so nice for me. If the government cannot employ enough people, and construct enough toll booths, so that those who have to pay don't have to wait, then they should find some other way to pay for the roads. The government routinely thinks that the citizen's time is worthless. I'm sure I spend a couple of hundred hours collecting information for the taxman (and then I have to pay someone $1000+ to put it all together because it's way too complicated for this Freeper with a couple of Math Degrees to do himself). It's involuntary servitude or, in the case of the tolls, false imprisonment.
No, no, no! We have to be #1 in something.
According to the taxfoundation we have the highest TAX BURDEN per capita in the US.
We are 37th in income and patently HOSTILE to business.
In education we don't do to badly, but those lucky recipients of that "blue chip" learning experience wind up being smart enough to move the hell away.
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.
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