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Fee Increases Likely for Maryland E-ZPass

Maryland would establish a monthly account maintenance fee of $1.50, according to the Maryland Transportation Authority plan announced Monday. That would become effective in July.

Among the other changes that would take effect at mid-year:
-- A charge of $21 for new or replacement transponders.
-- A charge of $3 on a Notice of Toll Due. (You'll pay $3 plus the toll due.)
-- An increase on a toll violation from $15 to $25.
-- The duration of E-ZPass commuter plans would be reduced from 60 days to 45 days.
-- While tolls for cars would stay the same, they would increase for big trucks and other vehicles with more than two axles, or pulling trailers.

On March 1, commuter ticket sales for Bay Bridge drivers would end. The last day to use commuter tickets would be shown on the final ticket book, but it would be on or before April 28.

Like most of our local transportation agencies, the Maryland Transportation Authority says it is trying to compensate for revenue declines and cost increases. The authority will probably take final action on the plan at its Jan. 29 meeting.

People can e-mail comments until Jan. 27 to mdtatollrates@mdta.state.md.us or send them Ronald L. Freeland, Executive Secretary, Maryland Transportation Authority, 2310 Broening Highway, Suite 150, Baltimore, MD 21224.

E-ZPasses are available from transportation agencies in 13 states. The fee scales vary, and drivers can shop around for what works best. A Wikipedia entry has a chart that compares the current charges of the various agencies. Here's a link.

By the way, this is the first time I've seen a direct relationship made between driving and the current state of our economy. The transportation authority says its total revenue is down 6 percent from July to November, since its income is tied directly to people's driving habits.

By Robert Thomson  |  January 6, 2009; 8:36 AM ET
Categories:  Driving  
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Comments

What states currently offer fee-free transponders? I will switch immediately if this plan takes effect, as I did when NJ implemented a fee.

Does Virginia offer them fee-free?

(I realize that MD commuters who get discounts may lose out on this . . . )

Posted by: ah___ | January 6, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

What an absurd plan... don't we want to incentivize EZPass use, not discourage it? Doesn't EZPass help decrease congestion and lower costs for collecting tolls?

Posted by: andimal | January 6, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

As if MD doesn't have high enough taxes already.

No, VA does not charge a monthly E-ZPass fee.

Posted by: afsljafweljkjlfe | January 6, 2009 11:23 AM | Report abuse

The Wikipedia site (link provided) had a pretty good summary of who charges what - assuming it is correct. Like the other poster, I got my EZPass through MD to avoid the monthly charge which NJ had. Since I only use my EZPass 4-6 times a year, I'll be looking for a free service provider as well if MD starts to change a monthly maintenance fee.

Posted by: slarochelle | January 6, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Ah, yes. Chart reference was added after my post.

If I have it right, the only issuers that have (1) no start-up fee (2) no tag deposit (with credit card) and (3) no monthly fee are:

Maryland (to change)
NY State Throughway
Peace Bridge Authority
Triborough Tunnel/Bridge
VDOT (using ACH)

Posted by: ah___ | January 6, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

(Similar comment posted at today's article in the Metro section.)

The monthly fee is a bad idea. Casual users (and others) will drop their accounts, thereby increasing the number of cash lane users, thereby increasing toll plaza congestion. EZpass was not implemented as a revenue source; it was designed to reduce toll plaza congestion.

Rather than penalize those who have been part of the solution to decrease toll plaza congestion, the cost of transportation should be shared by all users of the toll roads, so raise tolls a modest amount across the board if additional revenue is needed. That way, both Maryland users and out-of-state users, and both drivers of cars and trucks, bear their proportionate share of the burden.

It is inconceivable to me that AAA supports the service fee proposal.

Write, call, e-mail and fax AAA, MVA and your MD congressional delegation to Annapolis. We need to act fast!

Will Dr. Gridlock be an advocate for Maryland EZpass users? Surely, his voice is heard loud and clear at MVA.

Posted by: brooklawn3120 | January 6, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Do you object to the proposed EZpass service fees? Are you a member of AAA? Then raise a stink! Here's the contact information for AAA Mid-Atlantic, from its website:

AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Director of Public Affairs is Lon Anderson. His e-mail address is landerson@aaamidatlantic.com. His phone # is 202-481-6820, his fax # is 202-393-5423, and his cell # is 703-980-8868.

AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Public Affairs Manager for Maryland is Ragina Averella. Her e-mail address is raverella@aaamidatlantic.com, her phone # is 410-616-1900 ext 61152, her fax # is 410-616-1912, and her cell # is 443-465-5020.

Make yourself heard!

Posted by: brooklawn3120 | January 6, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

"ah____" writes:

If I have it right, the only issuers that have (1) no start-up fee (2) no tag deposit (with credit card) and (3) no monthly fee are:

Maryland (to change)
NY State Throughway
Peace Bridge Authority
Triborough Tunnel/Bridge
VDOT (using ACH)
--------------------------------

Allow me to point out something very important about the NY State Thruway Authority (NYSTA) tags and Triborough Bridge/Tunnel Authority (Actually, now part of the NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or NY MTA) tags: it is very difficult to obtain one of these if you are not a New York State resident.

Tags for NY MTA, NYSTA, and the Port Authority of NY and NJ are all issued by the New York Service Center. However Port Authority tags have a $1/month service fee, while NYSTA and NY MTA tags do not. MTA tags used to have a $1 fee, but NYS passed a law banning fees (because they wanted to encourage occasional users to use E-ZPass). Unfortunately, the Port Authority is a bi-state agency and a NYS law wouldn't apply without Authority board action and likely a reciprocal law from New Jersey, which they are not likely to pass since their Turnpike Authority uses those fees as a significant source of revenue.

So how does the NY Service Center decide which agency to enroll you in when you submit an application? There are exceptions, but the general rule is that NY residents of NYC and Long Island get NY MTA tags, NY residents from Westchester County and points north and west get Thruway Authority tags, and non-NY residents get Port Authority tags and have to pay the fee. So unless you have an address in New York State that you can have the tags sent to (and then change the address on your account), you cannot obtain a tag from those agencies.

Posted by: thetan | January 6, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Watch out - EZPass VA does *not* make detailed monthly statements available for free. You only get a summary of the amount spent each month.

Posted by: aaronw1 | January 6, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

So thetan, do you know whether those same principles apply if I picked up an EZ Pass from an "On-the-Go" retailer, say somewhere in Nassau County? I.e., doesn't matter if it's an "on-the-go" transponder, my billing address it what determines which agency handles the account?

Posted by: chumbucket | January 6, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

thanks for that info, Thetan. I was wondering how that worked . . .

Looks like the Peace Bridge may be the best offering there is.

On the other side of the coin, it appears that MD is "following the market" and figures they should join the parting of charging fees.

Posted by: ah___ | January 6, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

I'm pretty sure that E-ZPass tags must be branded to a certain agency. Therefore, if you pick up "On the Go" E-ZPass packs, it should be PA NYNJ, NY MTA, or NYSTA branded. Which one, I'm not sure. My guess is that there would likely be NY MTA ones available on Long Island, in which case you could register it to your DC area address and still not have to pay the fee. This I don't know for sure. All I do know is that anyone from out of state with a NY Service Center tag seems to have a PA NYNJ branded tag.

Posted by: thetan | January 6, 2009 2:52 PM | Report abuse

I find it disconcerting that many of the capital projects that are ostensibly funded with toll revenue are designed to make toll collection easier. This creates an escalating cycle of increasing tolls.

Raising prices on tolls to make improvements to tollbooths, add toll lanes, and increase safety at tollbooths makes you wonder if we could cut out those costs altogether by scrapping the damned things and raising the gas tax 10c.

At least that doesn't add pollution and congestion.

Posted by: chris4096 | January 7, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

I am particularly irked by the proposed fee because this is yet another way the State is trying to raise revenue for the Intercounty Connector, a road which our State simply cannot afford. Not only has the State destroyed my neighborhood to build this monstrosity, but now it wants me to pay for the “privilege” of having the market value of my home decreased and the peace and privacy of my home obliterated.

In addition, there will be no way to pay cash tolls on the Intercounty Connector, so we will be forced to use transponders, or else incur the $3 extra fee for Notice of Toll Due each time we use the road. (Of course, as previously reported in the Post, Maryland is notoriously inept at collecting from toll-jumpers, so here's a way to gouge the people who do pay.)

Thanks a bunch, MTA and Governor O'Malley.

Posted by: juliemartinkorb | January 11, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

I strongly oppose a monthly fee for EZ-Pass accounts. I am only an occasional user of toll roads, perhaps a few times a year. Maryland Ex-Pass has interest-free use of my minimum deposit on account for the rest of the time. If the monthly fee is assessed I would immediately surrender my transponder and join the line of drivers wasting gas to wait for the toll booths on those rare occasions when I must use a toll road. Is that progress?

If the Maryland Transportation Authority is receiving lower income from EZ-Pass because people are driving less, then it must adjust, like the rest of us have to do. Maryland doesn't have some super privilege to maintain your same income level if its services are needed less. The state should be encouraging more use of EZ-Pass, rather than discouraging it, so that toll booths are more automated and fewer toll booth operators are needed.

Posted by: RayMcAllister | January 13, 2009 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Obviously there is a brand new mindset at the MTA about the purpose and the benefits of the transponder program. When they gave them out for free with no service charges, the MTA clearly believed that more transponders would be better for both drivers and the state agencies in charges of highways and toll collections. Apparently the MTA is not seeing enough of a savings to justify the free program any more. I'd love to see what their savings projections were when this program began and compare it to the reality of what happened.

Mr. Freeland of the MTA wrote to me that the contractor charges the state $1.75 a month for each account. Thus, the state will STILL lose 25¢ on each existing account even with the new monthly service charge. That seems like an excessive monthly charge by the contractor and I am surprised that the state cannot get a better deal than that one!

Casual users of E-ZPass would be foolish to agree to keep their transponders at an $18 annual rate. Unless you're using I-95 to NY on a regular basis, I fail to see how Marylanders really need to have an E-ZPass transponder. Hardly any other roads are tollways in this state.

Posted by: MrRamsey | January 13, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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