[ back ]
Turnpike E-Z Pass isn't easy
COUNTY LINE, BY DAVE LANGE
Turnpike E-Z Pass isn't easy
The new electronic E-Z Pass tolling system began on the Ohio Turnpike this month with great fanfare and long lines at the toll plazas. Knowing that this technological wonder soon would be arriving in Ohio, I decided to get a jump on my fellow Buckeyes in late July, when I drove across New York state to Massachusetts. But it was the E-Z Pass that got a jump on me.
After seeing several signs at the New York State Thruway service plazas extolling the ease of the E-Z Pass, we invested the $25 start-up fee at the Clifton Springs plaza, just east of Rochester. There was nothing to lose, the friendly but busy clerk told us as we plopped our credit card on the counter, because that investment would be applied to our future tolls.
There was one catch though, she said. Since we already were on the thruway and had picked up a ticket at our entry point in Buffalo, we couldn't use the E-Z Pass on this particular trip. As the clerk rushed to a customer plopping cash down for bottled water, I thought to myself -- as one with minimal understanding of modern technology -- that makes sense. The little electronic transponder you attach to your windshield would have to register where you enter the toll road in order to charge your account correctly at your exit point, I surmised.
After reading the instructions and finding nothing to cast doubt on my conjecture, we followed the step-by-step guidelines in properly affixing the transponder to the windshield and instantly became proud members of modern traveling society. Or so we thought.
Eventually, we exited the thruway at Albany and dutifully waited in line for one of the cash-payment booths, as per the instructions of the service-plaza sales clerk, while veteran E-Z Pass holders whizzed past in the dedicated E-Z Pass lanes. The toll collector collected our ticket from Buffalo, along with $21 in cash, and we were on our way.
We later re-entered the Interstate 90 toll road on what is known as the Berkshire Connector, breezing through the E-Z Pass lanes as if we were high-tech highway riders ourselves, and continued in the same fashion on the equally modern Massachusetts Turnpike.
My illusion of technological advancement crashed with a thud the next day, when, further following the E-Z Pass instructions, we called the E-Z Pass bureaucracy to provide personal billing information. It was then that we learned that our brand new account already had been billed for the entire trip from Buffalo to Albany, even though we paid the toll in cash. We had been charged double for the same trip, even though our E-Z Pass transponder did not register our thruway entry at Buffalo and even though our E-Z Pass sales clerk had informed us that it couldn't be used until we exited and re-entered.
Furthermore, it was evident to us from our experience on the Berkshire Connector and the Mass Pike that the toll collectors are aware of E-Z Pass utilization, because they waved us through the lanes that are open to both pass holders and cash-paying travelers. Therefore, the thruway employee at Albany collected our cash, even though he must have been aware that our E-Z Pass account was being billed as well.
Nevertheless, our appeals to E-Z Pass bureaucrats for a refund by telephone and in writing were rejected without explanation.
Back in Ohio, I understand that turnpike operators have been working to make adjustments, because cash-paying drivers were clogging up dedicated E-Z Pass lanes and causing long lines at the toll booths, which seems to defeat the purpose. The easy solution would have been to temporarily waive the tolls and wave all the drivers through.
But I've become technologically advanced enough to know that E-Z Pass and easy pass are not synonymous.
[ back ]