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Marylanders Find E-ZPass Not So Easy

Many drivers who have E-ZPass accounts with Maryland are complaining about the new fees they'll be charged to maintain the accounts. Those fees were approved in January by the Maryland Transportation Authority, which operates the toll roads and bridges in The Free State.

The authority says it made these changes because you're driving less, and it gets all its money from the tolls. Here's a list of the changes that take effect on Wednesday:
-- E-ZPass Discount Plan duration reduced from 60 days to 45 days.
-- A Monthly Account Maintenance Fee of $1.50 will be added to each account.
-- The transponder fee for new customers and for replacement devices goes to $21 (interior and exterior license plate), $33 (roof-mount), $40 (fusion).
-- Notice of Toll Due Fee goes to $3 for each unpaid toll transaction, plus the toll due.
-- The Administrative Fee for failure to pay Notice of Toll Due increases from $15 to $25.
-- For Bay Bridge ticket customers, the Shoppers and Travelers ticket sales will no longer be issued. Look on the ticket book to see the last day they can be used. It will be on or before Dec. 31. The authority says it is creating an E-ZPass Shoppers Plan that offers the same percentage discount as the Shoppers Tickets.

There's more information on the program on this page.

By Robert Thomson  |  June 30, 2009; 11:40 AM ET
Categories:  Driving , Getaway  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, E-ZPass, Maryland travel, new fees  
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Some folks have EZ Pass just to skip the lines at the toll booth and/or save money. You don't necessarily need an EZ Pass to do it though.

E.g., travel the I-95 corridor several times a year? Get a Hatem Bridge decal. Takes US 40, in parallel to I-95, over the Susquehanna River. No EZ Pass needed. A bridge sticker costs $10 and covers all tolls for a full year (compared to $5.00 every time on I-95). Make enough trips, and the sticker pays for itself. Worried about going out of your way? It's a minor detour, and you avoid the occasional congestion at the toll facility on I-95.

Skip the Delaware tolls by getting off in Elkton, and skipping past the University of Delaware campus (easy enough with a map) to the north or taking US 40 to the south and linking back with I-95 on the other side of the DE Tpke tolls. It'll save you $8 round trip each time, no EZ Pass needed. Literally a few minutes out of the way (if you plan the route right) and often beats the time you spend in the backups at peak weekend times.

Posted by: chumbucket | June 30, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

I thought Maryland was going to get slot machines, rather than gouge residents?

If I lived in Maryland, I'd send my MTAG back to MDOT and tell 'em to shove it. Think of it as welfare for toll collectors.

Posted by: afsljafweljkjlfe | June 30, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm currently in the process of sending back my MD EZ pass and signing up for a PA one. PA charges $3 per year. Other states (such as VA) don't charge any fee. PA will "gladly" send transponders to MD residents, while VA "discourages" the practice...but I know of people who have done it.

Let's all send MDOT their EZ pass back with a note how short-sighted they are being.

Posted by: byte1 | June 30, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Look at the E-ZPass wikipedia page. You can comparison shop on all the fees using the chart on the bottom.

Virginia discourages out-of-state residents from getting their E-ZPass. Just go to the website and click where it says "Virginia residents sign up here". Then when filling out the application, you can pick any state for your mailing address.

Some of us have no choice but to obtain E-ZPass from another state...such as DC residents, since DC has no toll roads (yet...).

I have my tags from NY Thruway Authority, and I pay no fee and get free tags. But there is a catch....Thruway Authority, MTA, and PANY&NJ all give out tags through the NY Service Center. MTA and Thruway tags do not have a fee, because NY State Legislature banned the fees. PANYNJ tags do have the fees, since banning them would require consent of NJ, and NJ was the very first to charge an E-ZPass fee. Unfortunately, when you sign up for a tag on the NY Service Center website, your account is assigned to one of the three agencies based on the address you provide. NYC and Long Island residents generally get MTA tags, while upstate NY residents get Thruway Authority tags. Non-NY residents get stuck with PANYNJ tags and the associated fees.

So if you don't live in NY (and presumably no one here does), then the only way to get a NY E-ZPass with a Thruway or MTA transponder is by picking up an "E-ZPass on the go" pack at retail stores or Thruway service areas. Otherwise, don't expect to be able to get a fee-free tag through NY Service Center.

I have my NY tag from when I used to live there. I'm keeping it, because the discounts on MTA and PANYNJ bridges are very nice for NY Service Center tagholders, and I travel those bridges often when I go home to visit parents. And also, I like the idea that the fee-free bit is protected by state law, as opposed to Virginia's where they can change that at any time.

Posted by: thetan | June 30, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

I returned my MD EZPasses. Obtained from another state with no deposit, no maintenance fee. If Maryland was smart, they would charge cash customers more to reflect the increased cost of collection for those customers (toll collectors, additional lanes and infrastructure, toll booths, moving all that heavy change around, etc.).

However, government rarely does things that in the regular world would be considered "smart".

Posted by: ssolomo | June 30, 2009 9:53 PM | Report abuse

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