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MD Toll Authority Approves New Charges

The Maryland Transportation Authority today approved new rates for some types of tolls and new service charges for drivers who have E-ZPass accounts with the state. Tolls for cars stay the same.

The authority says its income is directly related to how many drivers are using the bridges, tunnels and highways it tolls. The authority's revenue declined 6 percent from July to November, so it developed this plan to increase annual revenue by $60 million.

It's the E-ZPass part that annoyed many of my readers. so let's look at that first.

Starting July 1, a $1.50 monthly maintenance charge per account will be added. New and replacement transponders will cost $21 for the standard model. There will be a new charge of $3 accompanying a Notice of Toll Due. Toll violation charges will increase from $15 to $25. Also effective July 1, the duration of E-ZPass commuter plans will change from 60 days to 45.

The account maintenance charge was particularly troubling to drivers who might go weeks or months without using their E-ZPass. The way they figured it, they should pay for the service only when they use it.

The way the authority sees it, the monthly cost for each user's account must still be paid by the authority to the contractor who administers the E-ZPass system, whether or not the account holder makes any trips.

Here's what else is in the plan approved today:
* March 1, the sale of commuter ticket books ends.
* May 1, toll rates rise for multi-axle vehicles, including trucks with three or more axles and vehicles towing trailers. The rates vary. You can see them on this chart.
* Also on May 1, vehicles with three or more axles that make more than 100 trips a month through authority tolls are eligible for a 10 percent discount.
* On May 1, motorcyclists will pay the two-axle toll rate even when using a side-car or towing a light trailer. (They must use the cash toll lane and pay in cash.)
* On July 1, the sale of Bay Bridge Shoppers and Travelers tickets will end. The authority will create a Shoppers Plan for E-ZPass to offer the same percentage discount as existing tickets.

By Robert Thomson  |  January 29, 2009; 2:45 PM ET
Categories:  Driving  
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I sent the following to MTA:
Please consider removing or reducing this charge as it discourages “casual” users who would still reduce congestion and pollution by participating. It is not only beneficial for daily commuters or commercial traffic, but to MD residents at large, even if they don’t drive but only breathe. The reply, in part:"Both the $21 charge for new and replacement transponders and the $1.50 monthly account charge will help us treat both our E-ZPass and cash customers fairly." and "...the direct service charge is the most transparent for our customers, since it is clear what the charge is for and how it will be used." I don't really agree.

Posted by: curtis789 | January 29, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Thanks to these new fees, which are the most excessive fees of ANY EZ-Pass issuing agency, they have lost me as a customer. I suppose this does help them out, since they no longer need to support my account. Of course, they also don't get the $18/year in service fees. Just for comparison, the PA Turnpike charges $3/year, and NY/NJ charges $1/month ($12/year).

Posted by: mcrochip | January 29, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

And the cost of a decal for the Hatem Bridge goes up to $10 on May 1st.

Posted by: ramgut | January 29, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Delaware still has no monthly fee.

Posted by: agefen | January 29, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

So what's our play? Looks like VA and the Peace Bridge are both totally free at this point. But are they going to flip too? VA requires using a check, rather than a credit card, which is both odd and annoying, but at least it's local.

Or maybe go Mass., where the fee is only 50c/month?

Posted by: ah___ | January 29, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Delaware has also still not managed to figure out how to handle their meager 25 miles of I-95 without bringing traffic to a standstill.

Posted by: robin3mj1 | January 29, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Don't tell the state of maryland, but I moved here and brought my fast lane pass with me from my other state. It works just fine, and I do not need to pay a monthly service fee for it.
That is ridiculous, they are going to find less people driving, which will not only lower the tolls, but will further reduce the gas tax they get.

Posted by: apd09 | January 29, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Delaware charges $25 for a tag, however.

Wikipedia has the list:

Posted by: ah___ | January 29, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Looks like canceling EZ Pass is pretty easy - just mail the transponder back. Since I use it twice a year or so, that means my 2 trips over the Bay Bridge would cost me $20 instead of $8.

Posted by: reiflame1 | January 29, 2009 6:02 PM | Report abuse

They lost me as a customer.
I love how they pretend the error is in the contract they signed with the contractor - like that isn't still Maryland's fault. They could have renegotiated, but they didn't.

They could have passed this fee on to all toll users (since all benefit whether they use it or not) but instead they decided to lose all of their casual users.

This reminds me of ATM fees. ATMs were started as a way to provide cheaper (automatic) teller service to customers. Banks saved money on these. Didn't stop them from also charging a fee.

I can't wait to hear those adds encouraging people to use EZ-Pass.

Posted by: cranor | January 29, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

I will be sending mine in, and switching to the (still free, for now) Virginia EZ-Passes this month.

Nice job, MTA.

Posted by: vtavgjoe | January 29, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

One other item of note - The MTA are the folks who are supposed to be running the Purple Line when/if it gets built. So perhaps this unelected body up in Baltimore will also help us out by charging a "Convenience Fee" everytime we use our SmarTrip cards on the Purple Line.

Posted by: vtavgjoe | January 29, 2009 7:16 PM | Report abuse

"VA requires using a check, rather than a credit card, which is both odd and annoying, but at least it's local."

I believe you must be confused. I've used a credit card to pay my Virginia account ever since I opened it in 2000.

Posted by: 1995hoo | January 29, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Wow, the Hatem bridge decal is going up to $10? So much for that little work around, although I guess if I'm passing through three times a year it's still worth it. Or there's always U.S. 1...

Posted by: ValleyCaps | January 29, 2009 9:24 PM | Report abuse

I love the chesapeake bay but I sure don't like the maryland democrats. Maryland: if you can dream it, we can tax it. very sad.

Posted by: charlietuna666 | January 29, 2009 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Goodbye EZ-Pass - $18 a year isn't worth it. If MTA is paying this or passing it on to us then MTA has a lousy contract and needs to renegotiate.

Posted by: theradas | January 29, 2009 9:39 PM | Report abuse

HEY MTA! Youre losing customers! Rod Blagojevich! Duke lacrosse rapists! Dick Cheney's shotgun! Britney Spears' vulva!


Posted by: bs2004 | January 29, 2009 9:42 PM | Report abuse

Wow, $18 a year just to have the thing, and it doesn't even get you toll discounts. Looks like I'll be turning mine in, and maybe I'll pick up an IPass next time I get back to Chicago. Hopefully you can take those on airplanes.

Oh, and the Hatem Bridge will give you a free renewal while its under construction. I got mine earlier this month. You just peel the sticker off (its actually pretty tough to do) and take it into the office at the toll plaza to exchange for a new one.

Posted by: bill3 | January 29, 2009 10:14 PM | Report abuse

re VA and checks: According to the website, to get them to waive the deposit, you need to use direct debit/ACH. You can use a credit card, but then you have to keep $35/pass with them on account.

Posted by: ah___ | January 29, 2009 10:54 PM | Report abuse

When you mail your transponder back (as I did to return one I had in NJ) be careful to package it so that it cannot be read while on the mail truck to its destination. My transponder (as verified through my final online statement) was charged the toll from the DE Memorial Bridge to Exit 15W on the NJ Turnpike right before my account was refunded for the balance. I called EZPASS and they told me I was out of luck because my account was closed and the billing cycle was over. I am choosing not to fight it, because the $5 in tolls in not worth my time on the phone arguing with them.

Posted by: dctravel | January 30, 2009 8:34 AM | Report abuse

I held onto my Maryland EZPass when we moved to the Midwest (a Wisconsin exurb of the Twin Cities) because while I didn't use it as often as I used to, it still works on the Chicago area I-PASS system.

It is also useful on our annual three week long road trip back home to visit our families (one in upstate NY, the other in DC with occasional side trips to the Maryland beaches). Especially once all the systems started integrating with each other - the only tolls we have to stop and pay cash for are in Ohio.

However, I'm now looking into Illinois' I-PASS. It doesn't seem to have the annual or monthly fees and it's closer to home. (And, as a bonus, I'm sure when they set up my account, they won't transpose my first and last names on the account.)

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | January 30, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Even though I lived in MD at the time when I ordered my EZPass from NY (MD didn't have it until years later) - got it through the Port Authority of NY/NJ when I should have ordered it through my parents address in Westchester County, I haven't regretted it in the least.

It's saved me having to have correct change on hand, saved time at the toll booths (and I constantly curse under my breath at those drivers clogging up my lane only to swerve to the cash only lanes at the last minute).

Yes, I've reviewed the Wikipedia entry for EZpass, and frankly, I still think the NY account is a good deal despite the dollar charge. For me it's a small price to pay only because we use it frequently. Looking back, I'm glad I didn't change over to MD, because then I'd be faced with these charges!

I can understand those who use it infrequently, but the more people who have EZPass, the faster they get through the toll plaza, and the $$ per month will make up for the time/gas wasted otherwise sitting and waiting to get through (hey, those that DON'T have EZpass end up wasting OUR time and gas by backing us up at the toll booths anyway).

Cost benefits. EZPass is time saved; No EZPass is more time wasted (and worrying about having exact change, etc. on hand) since this system basically covers the whole East Coast. The last time I checked, I also received discounts for having EZPass while crossing the Verranzano/ Goethals/ Outerbridge/ Tappan Zee bridges.

Just my 2 cents. I'm coming up on almost 15 years with this account (I've lost track), and it hasn't failed me once.

Posted by: deweydevil1 | January 30, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

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