E-zpass is the way to go
With Thanksgiving having just passed, hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania residents hit local interstates and toll roads to celebrate with extended families and friends.
Today, when it comes to these toll roads, there are two kinds of motorists — those with E-ZPass (S0 percent) and those without it (40 percent). Those with it barely slow down as they pass under scanners that charge their accounts electronically. Those without it, find themselves sitting in lines — sometimes long ones — waiting for a human toll taker to accept cash and make change.
Well, if the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has its way, those lines will soon be disappearing. Along with them so will 700 to 800 toll-taking jobs. Just two weeks ago, acting commission CEO Craig Shuey announced a plan that would have the turnpike tollbooth free by 2018.
This is, after all, the 21st century. There was a time when the most efficient way to collect tolls was to have a human being in a toll both all day and night putting out their hand. That day is gone. In the age of smartphones, digital cameras, and electronic banking there is a much better way.
There will be transition costs. But in the long run they will pale in comparison to the cost of paying the salaries, health care and pension benefits of the professional toll taker.
As it is, it costs the turnpike commission $S7 million a year to run the toll plazas. By 2014, that cost jumps to $77 million thanks mostly to those salaries and benefits.
For years, the technology has been available to make toll taking faster, cheaper and more convenient. Healthier, too.
Obviously, having a job that requires inhaling car fumes all day can’t be healthy. But what’s worse is that traffic congestion negatively affects the health of residents who live nearby, especially children.
According to a study published in the American Economic Journal, E-Z Pass-type tolling cuts down traffic congestion and hence the local pollution that comes with it. Researchers found that expectant mothers who lived within two miles of an EZPass plaza, as opposed to a traditional stop-and-go toll station, gave birth to healthier, heartier babies.
For decades toll-taker unions have managed to improve members’ pay and working conditions. But in some places the amount of toll money coming in is barely enough to pay the workers, let alone road and bridge repairs for which tolls were originally levied.
It can be argued these hard-working toll takers deserved every penny. After all, being in a toll booth all day is boring, unhealthy and deserves good compensation. But the better argument is that people shouldn’t be put to work doing boring jobs that machines can do better, faster and cheaper.
As it is, Pennsylvania is starting to charge non-E-Z Passers more for the privilege of sitting in line than it does E-ZPass. customers to zip by toll stations. Come 2018, you old-school types will still be able to go without E-ZPass. Turnpike cameras will take a photo of your license plate and send you a bill, otherwise known as a ticket. There’s a smarter, E-wer way to go. Journal Register News Service