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The Monday Rant: What's So Hard About E-Zpass?

John Deiner

I had the fortune (misfortune?) to travel up I-95 and into New Jersey via the turnpike a few weekends ago, and several things leapt to mind.

Delaware is an awful place to drive.

Delaware is an expensive place ($4 each way for the toll?!?) to drive.

Highway planners have become much more savvy when it comes to E-Zpass.

Drivers who don't have it and travel a lot are crazy.

Let's scrape Delaware off our shoes first: It's a lousy mess of construction and jersey walls and when it's all done it'll be great. We can agree on that (come on, work with me). And while there are workarounds to the mess, the bad pavement along my favorite detours -- jumping off before the toll and wrapping around to an exit north or south of it -- is akin to the potholed streets in D.C. following a particularly icy winter.

Now, on to E-Zpass. Why the hesitancy to sign up, people? Maybe it's my imagination, but the farther south you drive, the fewer cars you see using the express lanes. This always seems particularly true at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which is a problem because the huge backups prevent me from getting into the E-Zpass-only lane, which is frequently clear.

A few weekends ago, I nearly got clipped by drivers on I-95 heading to the E-Zpass lane outside of the Baltimore tunnel and coming off the Delaware Memorial Bridge when they realized that, duh, they'd didn't have E-Zpass. So dangerous. At the last minute, both drivers veered to the right into the cash lane, totally ignoring the shrieking guy in the Honda behind them.

I do give huge credit to state transportation departments, though. In Jersey, the improvements at the base of the turnpike are terrific, and the long E-Zpass lane that starts well south of the toll plazas in Baltimore are far safer than everyone juggling for position once through the tunnel. And Delaware? I haven't been through that toll in a while, but it did have good notice about which lanes you needed to get into for E-Zpass.

But tell me: Why doesn't everyone have E-Zpass? Doesn't it make life simpler on the road? What are you afraid of?

By John Deiner |  January 14, 2008; 7:41 AM ET  | Category:  John Deiner , Monday Rants
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For me, it's simple: I just haven't gotten around to doing it. And every time I go to NY (about 3 times/year), I curse my laziness! But, you've put me over the edge with this blog. I'm going to the EZ-pass website directly after typing this. What a public service you provide here :)

Posted by: non frequent flyer | January 14, 2008 8:29 AM

big brother

Posted by: Anonymous | January 14, 2008 8:49 AM

Because I use the toll roads so rarely that it doesn't make sense to get an ez-pass. I do try to make sure I'm in the correct lane long before I approach a toll plaza though...

Posted by: Mike in Reston | January 14, 2008 9:08 AM

I asked that of an ex-girlfriend who used to drive the Dulles Toll Road/Loudoun Greenway to work every day. Why did she always pay the toll in cash?

Her answer--her serious, straight-faced answer--was that it can be used to track her movements.

Posted by: Pompous Magnus | January 14, 2008 9:18 AM

Having an EZ Pass means squat when you're sitting in traffic going south on 95 and waiting to go through the toll coming off the bridge.

We drove back from Massachusetts on 12/27 and lost a good hour just sitting because of the ungodly merge mess on the other side of the toll. EZ Pass didn't make that leg go any faster.

Posted by: cab91 | January 14, 2008 9:18 AM

I roar up the ez pass lane bypassing the long que of cars waiting to pay tolls and then then cut back in at the last possible minute.
Saves me a lot of time on DE tpk !

Posted by: chris in bethesda | January 14, 2008 9:20 AM

I agree, it doesn't make sense not to have EZPass (however you want to spell it) if you do any distance driving. I used it heavily a couple of years ago between Va. and Wisconsin, and with the installation of high-speed EZPass lanes in Illinois, the shot around Chicago was almost bearable.

One thing you hinted about: I have never been so grateful for my defensive driving training as when approaching toll booths. You have to assume the other guy is going to realize sooner or later that he's in the wrong lane, and be alert. It's not like it's an unusual occurrence.

Posted by: swheelock | January 14, 2008 9:21 AM

EZ Pass has been a real plus for us since we travel up to PA four to six times a year to see our daughter. We have one on each car and it seems to me that we save anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes not waiting in toll booth lines.

Posted by: subvet | January 14, 2008 9:26 AM

I'm like a number of drivers, I occasionally drive up north from Virginia to visit a friend on Long Island or when my wife works in NYC or Philadelphia.

Each time I think, I've GOT to get an EZ Pass. Of course, then I forget about it. As it happens, my wife is probably going to be working up north again, so this time I'll buy one. No, REALLY, I will. I promise.

:-)

Posted by: Fairlington Blade | January 14, 2008 9:27 AM

I drive on the Dulles Toll Road or Greenway about 1-2 times a month, and up through Delaware, NJ, etc. about once every two years. It's just not enough of an inconvenience for me to get an EZpass yet. I have no problems on the local toll roads, either with the exact change or full service lanes, and my rare trips north are hardly worth the start-up fees.

Posted by: alexva | January 14, 2008 9:30 AM

Because they do not make it easy to buy one. The web site (at least for Md), does not sell them but points to locations that do. None of the sites list the price for the device and of course no sites are convenient. If they want people to use the EZ pass, they need to make it easy to buy. They also need to make it much clearer where the EZpass is accepted.

Posted by: MIke | January 14, 2008 9:38 AM

I drove to NYC with my son in November to pick up a car. I had ezpass, he didn't (in the new car). I got home an hour before him. Now to me, that's reason enough to get it.

And for anyone that commutes, there are commute packages that save you a ton of money (baltimore harbor tunnel is 40 cents with the commute package, $2 without).

And to whoever mentioned start-up fees - not sure what you are talking about. You put a deposit down on the unit (refundable when returned), and link up your credit card and have an initial charge of $25. That's it.

However I actually like it that so few people have EZpass, makes it better for those of us that do!

Posted by: jen | January 14, 2008 9:39 AM

Mike - things may have changed, but when I signed up I did it all over the Internet, they shipped me the unit and I never had to go to any office or talk to any human being.

Posted by: jen | January 14, 2008 9:41 AM

Ditto on the drive from Wisconsin to Virginia or Central NY. And it looks like the toll stretch of 80/90 in Indiana has also joined since our last road trip, so now it's only Ohio you have to deal with regular merge lanes. We only use it on our road trips back east (done annually or biennially), and it has never occurred to me to get rid of it.

And do those who don't use EZPass also pay for everything in cash, have "under the table" employment, and/or not have a SSN? They track you around just as easily from jobs and credit cards and your SSN as anything else.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | January 14, 2008 9:47 AM

Those Delaware tolls are ridiculous because of the non-ez-pass folks. It's sad, but I'd travel to visit family/friends in NY and Philly much more if those tolls were smoother.

Posted by: j | January 14, 2008 9:50 AM

And one more comment about where you can use ezpass - I have used it at every toll plaza from Maryland to NYC, Maryland to Viriginia Beach and other places. Have not yet run into a place where it wasn't accepted.

Posted by: jen | January 14, 2008 9:51 AM

Why is EZ Pass an advance fee plan instead of pay as you go, or bill at end of month? It's the same scam as Metro Smart Card, which has had twelve dollars on it while it sits in my pocket unused.

Posted by: GeneralComment | January 14, 2008 9:51 AM

GeneralComment, don't worry that the money will sit on an unused EZPass. If you don't use it every 6 months, they cancel your account and use the money you prepaid to pay for the transponder they sent you.

Every summer I sit in the non EZPass line and curse this rule.

Posted by: Bob | January 14, 2008 10:02 AM

I drive to Long Island from AA County, so I'm stuck paying the Gothels and Verenzano Bridges (however it's spelled). I don't like to carry a lot of cash, so I finally got it before my trip last June and it came in handy again when I drove home over Christmas. I had a pet with me on this trip, so it meant not having to open the windows and let the cool air in. And I love the express lanes!

My parents travel out of state (off Long Island) a couple of times a year and they don't have it. They don't use ATM cards, don't have Internet, don't have digital cable, and only my dad has a cell phone, so they're not up with the times yet...

Posted by: WDC 21113 | January 14, 2008 10:07 AM

I have found decend bypasses for the $5 northbound toll on I-95 in MD and the $4 toll in Delaware. The Delaware toll takes an extra 10 minutes when there is no traffic on 95 and saves time when there is a backup on the Delaware "Turnpike." When I first started making my monthly trips to NJ, my EZPass saved me 25 cents on the toll ($1 instead of $1.25), but now that they jacked it up to $4 each way, will happily drive around it.

Posted by: WA2CHI | January 14, 2008 10:09 AM

Bob's wrong.

Posted by: jw | January 14, 2008 10:09 AM

GeneralComment, don't worry that the money will sit on an unused EZPass. If you don't use it every 6 months, they cancel your account and use the money you prepaid to pay for the transponder they sent you.

Every summer I sit in the non EZPass line and curse this rule.

Posted by: Bob | January 14, 2008 10:02 AM

Can you find a link that says this?

Posted by: Wondering... | January 14, 2008 10:10 AM

What the highway people should do to ensure that EZ-Pass gets adopted more is to charge more for cash payments. I think the bridges into NYC do this now, but if they made it even more, it would probably speed everyone's trip.

Posted by: Sitting in traffic | January 14, 2008 10:15 AM

I've had EZ Pass (M-tag) since they came out, initially as a commuter, now I have the casual use plan, as does everyone in the family. I have used it from Virginia to Maine, what a huge savings in time and frustration. I love cruising by the folks in the long, long, long cash toll lanes.

You know, you can pull of I-95 at the McHenry tunnel and pick one up. I'm sure there are other offices around Maryland, too.

Posted by: Momj47 | January 14, 2008 10:19 AM

Agreed; there need to be more incentives given to use EZPass. In Texas, many of the tollroads give a 10 cent discount if you use a tolltag (same idea; different transponder). EZPass reduces congestion, decreases the need for constructing additional toll lanes, decreases pollution, and saves oodles of time.

Delaware is awful and appears to care zero about making the trip through there more efficient. So selfish. Yes, most people on 95 are just passing through Delaware; maybe they should concentrate on making it vaguely desirable instead of miserable people would think slightly more highly of it.

The Dulles Toll Road is no better. If each ramp had an EZPass only lane, with the other lane cash or exact change, the ramps would be much less backed up. But the MWAA had no incentive to make driving on the toll road a better experience.

Posted by: Steven | January 14, 2008 10:26 AM

I find the easier solution is: Don't drive on I-95. I drive from VA to MA once or twice a year... I took 95 once, and have never made that mistake again.

Posted by: KR | January 14, 2008 10:27 AM

Bob is wrong--I've had one for 6 years or so, using it only occasionally on bay bridge, balt tunnels, and MD/DE turnpike. Goe months w/o using, and it still works.

Sure the $25 deposit to start is a bit annoying, but at this point it's a non-issue. Once a year or so (each trip up to DE) I get another rebill. So be it.

Posted by: ah | January 14, 2008 10:31 AM

we have not bought an EZ pass because we usually fly to the general vicinity of where we are going and rent a car. They have made it very awkward to use EZ Pass on a rental car. Have to call or email with tag number of the car before using pass. Now Hertz and some others offer EZPasses, but charge a premium.

Posted by: SueVee | January 14, 2008 10:34 AM

re: EZPass - I recently drove on the PA Turnpike and in the rest stops there they had EZPass booths - not sure if you could actually buy a tag there or just sign up for one. Regardless, that seemed like a good idea to have - have never seen one in the stops on 95 between DC and NYC.

re: Delaware - while the on-going never-ending construction there is a problem, the end of it will still not alleviate the bottlenecks there - the problems are the 2 left lanes after the Bridge toll (I always use the EZPass lanes on the far right then cut over) and then all of the endless merges to only put one in line for yet another toll! My solution is to extend the Memorial bridge to the MD border!

Posted by: McPherson Sq. | January 14, 2008 10:50 AM

Forgot to add that I ordered mine on-line back in June and got it less then a week later. Unless things have changed since then, you can get it on-line.

Posted by: WDC 21113 | January 14, 2008 10:52 AM

I don't understand how people who travel on 95 don't have EZPass. Granted, I travel to NJ and over the Bay Bridge many times a year, so I use it all the time.

I had heard that the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (not the 50/301 bridge) is supposed to start taking EZ Pass soon, too - which will be great for the yearly trip to OBX.

Newark Airport (and maybe some others)has now started charging parking to EZ Pass. In fact, if you pull in with an EZ Pass, it deducts the parking automatically when you leave - you don't even get a chance to pay with cash.

The arguments about Big Brother, etc - you can be followed anywhere with credit cards and the like. I've also heard that people are scared that if they get to a point too fast, that they can get a speeding ticket. All lame excuses, to me. But the fewer people that have them, the more time it saves me when driving on 95!

Posted by: Maureen | January 14, 2008 10:52 AM

We never made any special arrangements with a rental car company before using our EZPass in a rental, and have never had a problem. (We've rented cars at least four times in the past couple of years from a few different companies.)

EZPass easily saves us 30-60 minutes on the drive from DC to Boston. I momentarily wonder about the people who don't use it and choose to sit in the long lines, but that thought is gone after zipping through the tollbooth.

Now, the one irritant is on the NJ Turnpike, where driving too fast between the entry point and exit point will get a warning or a ticket mailed to your house (happened to a couple of friends), but we consciously stop at one of the travel plazas, which adds some time so it hasn't been a problem.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 14, 2008 11:06 AM

Per the whole cancellation/minimum balance thing thing...

Here's the text from a letter I recently received from EZPass Maryland:

"The credit card you previously authorized E-ZPass Maryland to charge for replenishments will expire at the end of the month (month here). E-ZPass Maryland will not be able to process future replenishment payments to your account. Before the end of (month), please provide us with the new expiration date of your current authorized credit card or provide authorization for E-ZPass Maryland to charge a different credit card....

FAILURE TO ACT ON THIS NOTICE WILL RESULT IN YOUR ACCOUNT BECOMING INVALID."

Small print at the bottom reads:

"Whenever my prepaid toll balance is $10 or below if I am an individual account holder...I authorize E-ZPass Maryland to charge my card an amount that reflects my monthly toll usage. I agree and understand that such charges will continue until my E-ZPass Maryland account is terminated or I revoke this authorization in writing...."

So your minimum balance is actually $10 - not huge, but there. I think it has to do with the deposit you put towards the transponder...which is $10. Though that deposit will be refunded when you return the transponder.

At any rate, if anyone wants to read the fine print, here's the "Terms and Conditions" page from EZPass Maryland

http://www.ezpassmd.com/static/terms/individual_terms.shtml

According to this page, once you return the transponder in working order, the balance of your account will be credited back to you.

"Upon termination and return of the Transponder(s), your Account balance and Transponder(s) deposit, if any, will be returned to you. All outstanding charges will be deducted prior to such refund. Commuter plans are not eligible for refunds."

Posted by: Chasmosaur | January 14, 2008 11:17 AM

Sorry - hit enter while I was on the phone typing the last post.

I have had a balance of ~$20 sitting on my EZPass for almost two years now. The letter I quoted above only arrived because the expiration date on my credit card remained due, not for lack of use.

I have not been billed any extra fees nor have I had my account canceled...and I live in Wisconsin now, so you think they'd jump on that.

Whenever we get set to use the EZPass, we check out what the tolls will cost us and make sure we tank up a similar amount so we don't have a huge balance and I don't get nailed with a replenishment. We usually aim to have between $15-$20 left so we don't incur any fees. Small price to pay, I think for the gas and time it saves us.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | January 14, 2008 11:28 AM

I sometimes rent a car to drive up 95 to NY/NJ. I would like rental car companies to give the option of renting an EZ Pass with the car. I would certainly pay the rental car company a fee of whatever, $5 or $10 plus the tolls used, to make the trip easier!

Posted by: DC driver | January 14, 2008 11:29 AM

MVA Express offices in Maryland sell them at a $25 kit, with $15 credited to your account when you register it. At the Wheaton/Glenmont MVA office, buying an EZPass is part of the express line. I bought mine 6 hours before leaving on a trip, went home, registered it online and it worked fine.

Posted by: Wheaton | January 14, 2008 11:30 AM

1) You are charged to get a detail of your charges.
2) There's a history of the company double charging people.
3) It Doesnt Always Work!! There have been several times I've set off alarms going through a toll booth WITH money in my account.

Posted by: GL | January 14, 2008 11:44 AM

A. I live in Reston, but take the Toll Road like once a year. I avoid it like ebola. Same thing with the ridiculous I-95 tolls.

B. Just wait until you folks start getting automatic speeding tickets sent to you. They'll have the time you cross between two readers and they'll know the distance. Do the math, and they'll have your average speed and a real easy way to increase revenue. Yeah, I speed, but I'm not going to volunteer for a way to catch myself.

Posted by: Tin Foil Cap | January 14, 2008 11:47 AM

I think most people mistakenly believe that EZ pass COSTS something above and beyond the toll. It doesn't; it's free.

Posted by: eric | January 14, 2008 12:05 PM

I got mine through Maryland and I am not charged for the bills that detail my usage. Perhaps other states charge for that, but not Maryland.

Posted by: ezpassuser | January 14, 2008 12:15 PM

"I think most people mistakenly believe that EZ pass COSTS something above and beyond the toll. It doesn't; it's free. "
Well, there is that pesky $10 you have to pay to get one. Sure, its a "deposit" and you get it back when you return the transponder. But, its still money out of my pocket.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 14, 2008 12:20 PM

We originally got EZPass for our yearly trips from Upstate NY to Wildwood NJ. Try driving the entire length of the Garden State Parkway, stopping every couple of miles to throw 35 cents into a bucket! The lines for the tolls were horrendous and we'd have to take a bag full of quarters and dimes. EZPass has shaved a good hour off the trip. The only time I ever had a problem with it was when I got a new license plate. The transponder didn't match the license and I'd get an error light every time I went through. It took a while to figure out what the problem was, but the EZPass office was kind enough to void the extra fines I had incurred.

Posted by: Amy | January 14, 2008 12:25 PM

Ahh, I see Deiner and WC know about all the ways to avoid the stupid troll..er..uhh...tolls. I agree with you about the Deleware toll work arounds. I think they've deliberately let the Christina Parkway degrade to make people use the toll barrier. That road is a disgrace. At least the fixed the ramp though.

Posted by: EricS | January 14, 2008 12:26 PM

B. Just wait until you folks start getting automatic speeding tickets sent to you. They'll have the time you cross between two readers and they'll know the distance. Do the math, and they'll have your average speed and a real easy way to increase revenue. Yeah, I speed, but I'm not going to volunteer for a way to catch myself.

Interesting. On my trip back from Long Island, the days and times were way off (per the FREE report). I think we're a long way from speeding tickets. And I stop on the NJT for gas anyway, so I'm not concerned.

Posted by: WDC 21113 | January 14, 2008 12:33 PM

"Her answer--her serious, straight-faced answer--was that it can be used to track her movements."

Ask her if she has a cell phone. Does she use credit cards? Does she use an ATM other than at the bank nearest to her house? Does she go into the bank to do business? (They have cameras.) Does she ever visit the District of Columbia with its surveillance cameras? Does she drive on toll roads and pay cash? Any of these allow her movements to be tracked (most tollbooths have cameras aimed at the traffic lanes, so paying cash doesn't mean they can't get your license plate number).

Posted by: Rich | January 14, 2008 12:35 PM

"I think most people mistakenly believe that EZ pass COSTS something above and beyond the toll. It doesn't; it's free.

Posted by: eric | January 14, 2008 12:05 PM "


It costs $1/month for the "account fee" which is a total rip-off.

Posted by: Mac | January 14, 2008 12:43 PM

I would love to get an EZPass. But I can't. Because I don't own a car.

My husband and I rent a car several times a year to visit friends and family up the 95 corridor.

Unfortunately, rental cars do not come with an EZPass. And you can't get one and stick it in the rental -- the EZPass must be linked to a specific vehicle.

I've called major car rental agencies asking them to install the EZPasses. You'd figure they could charge your tolls to the credit card you used to make your reservation, plus a small convenience fee. But nobody seemed much interested in the idea.

Posted by: Melissa | January 14, 2008 12:54 PM

EZPass is a godsend, I think. I don't know how I drove up and back to NYC without it. Re: Big Brother: This is true, but all credit card transactions can be used in the same way. Are you going to stop using credit cards? I doubt it.
After all, didn't you ever wonder why Tony Soprano didn't get one?!

Posted by: beegrace123 | January 14, 2008 1:08 PM

I love EZPass, and I hate Delaware. As a student who goes to school in Boston and is from Atlanta, it is easily the most beneficial gadget in my car. Quite frankly I do not want to carry around $30 in toll money in my car for one journey.

Posted by: Mandy | January 14, 2008 1:10 PM

"Re: Big Brother: This is true, but all credit card transactions can be used in the same way. Are you going to stop using credit cards? I doubt it."

Uh, yeah, actually I don't use anything but cash. The Founding Fathers got by without credit cards and so you can you. Unless you're not a true American. What are you, Al-Qaeda?!?!?!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 14, 2008 1:13 PM

"I think most people mistakenly believe that EZ pass COSTS something above and beyond the toll. It doesn't; it's free.
Posted by: eric | January 14, 2008 12:05 PM "

It costs $1/month for the "account fee" which is a total rip-off.
Posted by: Mac | January 14, 2008 12:43 PM

There is NO monthly account fee in Maryland. Other jurisdictions do it differently. Some also charge an initial fee; again, MD does not. Right now.

The idea to give speeding tickets based on average speed was floated in New Jersey a few years ago and immediately shot down. If you want to kill electronic tolls dead in its tracks, give one speeding ticket and watch everybody jump ship. Won't ever happen.

Posted by: no fees in MD | January 14, 2008 1:24 PM

As a single woman who travels between MD and Massachusetts a couple of times a year, and drives through Pennsylvania a couple of other times too, I actually feel safer using my EZ-Pass. I don't have to fumble for change and bills when approaching a toll booth (who can keep up with changing tolls in all those jurisdictions?), and if I do become a victim of crime somewhere along the way, it'll be easier for the cops to track my last-seen whereabouts.

Yeah, I don't like Big Brother either, but I really don't think I'm all that individually interesting. And any attempts I make to go a little faster than allowed are negated by traffic and pit stops.

Posted by: P.G. Gal | January 14, 2008 1:31 PM

Per the EZPass fees:

Remember - depending upon which state you join EZPass from, you will get different fees.

EZPass Maryland *doesn't have the monthly fees*, which is why it's popular in the DC area. Other EZPass agencies will charge monthly fees.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | January 14, 2008 1:51 PM

Got my DRBA (Delaware) EZ pass about five years ago when I was regulary commuting to New Jersey and love it. Paid a small deposit, account balance was paid up in increments I set, and just billed to my Amex card when my balance fell below $5. Until now it was essentially free, but this year, they are starting a $1.50 month charge. But--even at $18 per year, it's totally, totally worth it. I never panic driving up I-95 over whether or not I have cash.

Posted by: 95 Commuter | January 14, 2008 1:56 PM

Yeah, my folks have resisted the EZ Pass movement for the past several years, with their chief concern being the privacy/big brother bugaboo. Some folks don't want government agencies (actually, their back-office contractors who actually run EZ Pass day-to-day from the financial side) to have their credit card info. I can understand their concern, but some of these resistors are the same folks who'll give the DMV/MVA their credit card to renew their license or vehicle registration.

I'd think it's actually more advantageous to link EZ Pass to a credit card, because aside from skipping the inconvenience of reloading the account balance from time to time, you're afforded certain consumer protections when using a credit card that you don't get when you use cash. Double-billed and can't work it out with the State? Call up MasterCard and dispute the charge with them.

EZ Pass has been a huge time saver in most places I've had occasion to use it, especially in the I-95 corridor and in PA (on route to the Midwest).

BTW - EZ Pass is now accepted on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel connecting the Delmarva Peninsula to the Norfolk area. They got that operation going in November. No big time savings, but for truckers, it has to be nice to travel between the Northeast and the Norfolk/Va. Beach/OBX region without having to fumble for money after using EZ Pass for all other stretches of the trip.

Posted by: Pete | January 14, 2008 2:01 PM

there is no $1 account fee is you review your account information online.

Posted by: VA fees | January 14, 2008 2:04 PM

Wow, with the amount of FUD flying in these comments, you'd think this was a political blog.


@Mac (12:43 PM)
"It costs $1/month for the 'account fee' which is a total rip-off."

Someone else already pointed out that this was wrong. For MD. I know I kept my NY EZ Pass for 5-10 years after moving to MD, but NY State implemented a $1/month fee, which finally prompted me to switch to MD EZ Pass. No fee here.


@GL (11:44 AM)
"1) You are charged to get a detail of your charges."

I just checked all the details (time, date, toll plaza, tag #) online, and there IS NO CHARGE. (This is MD EZ Pass, but I was able to do the same with NYS EZ Pass when I had it.)

"2) There's a history of the company double charging people."

Between MD and NY, I've been using it for ~13 years, and I since I have a compulsion check EVERY line of EVERY statement for EVERY account I have, I can say with confidence that this has never happened to me, at least, FWIW.

"3) It Doesnt Always Work!! There have been several times I've set off alarms going through a toll booth WITH money in my account."

Again, never seen that myself on from DC to NYC using I-95 to the NJ Turnpike, various Balto. and DC area tolls (Key Bridge, Dulles Toll Road). YMMV. At what toll plazas has this happened to you? Is it maybe because you have $$$ in unpaid parking tickets? (j/k...unless I'm right...) However, I'm the first to admit (and usually the first to point out) that the plural of "anecdote" is not "data".

@Tin Foil Cap (11:47)
"B. Just wait until you folks start getting automatic speeding tickets sent to you. They'll have the time you cross between two readers and they'll know the distance. Do the math, and they'll have your average speed and a real easy way to increase revenue. Yeah, I speed, but I'm not going to volunteer for a way to catch myself."

From snopes.com:

"We have yet to find any verified accounts of municipalities (in any state) automatically issuing traffic citations based on transit times recorded by electronic toll collection systems. Although many people maintain they have received such citations (or know someone who has), those claims have so far always proved to be misunderstandings: Motorists who travel too fast as they pass by E-Z Pass toll collection points may receive letters warning them to slow down while they use E-Z Pass lanes or else risk cancellation of their E-Z Pass accounts, but those letters are not law enforcement citations, nor are they based on speeds calculated by recording times of passage between two checkpoints."

Overall, it looks like we might all be talking about different states' programs and facilities (specifically, toll plazas/readers). Maybe that's part of the reason we're all so sure we're right?

Posted by: The Cosmic Avenger | January 14, 2008 2:04 PM

Should mention though that EZ Pass info has been used against people. There was that guy in Jersey, what about a year ago?, that was nailed in divorce court for carrying on an extra-marital affair with the plaintiff citing EZ-Pass records, the toll entry-exit points, and the home addresses of the defendant and his alleged mistress.

So, be warned. If you plan to carry out illegal/immoral activities and using your ride in the commission of those acts, be sure to rid yourselves of EZ Pass and pay cash instead.

FWIW - other toll systems are using strict video-tolling. The image your license plate entering and exiting the highway and just send you a bill (they cancel your vehicle registration if you fail to pay). In those places, it wouldn't matter at all if you had a transponder - you could still be caught in act.

Posted by: Pete | January 14, 2008 2:08 PM

Not sure if someone else has corrected the several incorrect posts - EZPass is available for purchase in MD online by going to EZPassmd.com and selecting Sign Up Now, then selecting Individual Pass (if you're a person instead of a business). Arrives in the mail in 5-7 days.

Posted by: BayResident | January 14, 2008 2:15 PM

Gee The Cosmic Avenger, thanks for telling me they haven't started doing that yet. But give them time, and they will.

That Snopes quote has little to do with what I said. Currently, no one does it, except that they want you to slow down in the toll lanes...fair enough. But eventually, they (states) will use them like red light cameras or automatic radar tickets.

Posted by: Tin Foil Cap | January 14, 2008 2:15 PM

While the concept of EZ Pass is fantastic, the customer service, rules, and fines associated with ezpass kills me.

numerous times the stupid transponder fails and a few weeks later I get a notice telling me I have to prove my account was in good standing and that I'm and ezpass customer. though these clowns have tracked me down via my registration and license plate, i have to prove to ezpass i'm a customer--real nice.

then, to go to the web site to prove i'm a customer by logging in and sending (welcome back to 1985: fax or snail mail only), I have to use an arcane PIN number (instead of a username) and print the last statement. a real kicker: these clowns DO NOT print the account holder's name or account number on the printer-friendly document.

on top of that, to appeal any fines, you don't go to a third party, you address your complaints to ezpass. my record with getting fines reversed is not surprisingly 0 for 4.

other rules are silly: you have to register a vehicle with an ezpass? yep, expect to get hit with a fee if you pull your ezpass out of car 1 and travel in car 2 (even if title/ezpass accounts are identical).

would love to continue my rant about this sham of a system but i have to metro downtown--what a treat ;-)

Posted by: Chris | January 14, 2008 2:16 PM

Tin Foil,

1. Get an EZPass.
2. If they start using it to ticket people, get rid of EZPass.

Why is this difficult?

Posted by: dudeguy | January 14, 2008 2:18 PM

"Unfortunately, rental cars do not come with an EZPass. And you can't get one and stick it in the rental -- the EZPass must be linked to a specific vehicle."

This is incorrect. You can swap it to another car as long as it's of the same vehicle class (meaning, don't try putting it in a Penske rental truck if your E-ZPass is registered for a Honda Accord).

From VDOT's FAQ:

"33. Can I switch my E-ZPass transponder to another vehicle?

"Yes. You can switch the transponder from one vehicle to another as long as you use it on a vehicle with the same vehicle type. Contact the Customer Service Center at 1-877-762-7824 to request additional mounting strips so that you can move your E-ZPass transponder between vehicles."

Posted by: Rich | January 14, 2008 2:23 PM

LOVE my ezpass! Are the anti-ezpass bloggers the same people standing in line at the bank & paying bills by mail?

Posted by: annapolis | January 14, 2008 2:24 PM

Hey Rich,

You don't even need to do that to use the tech in rental rides. See https://www.platepass.com/ This has been available in Hertz rental cars as of late (not sure about others).

Posted by: Pete | January 14, 2008 2:47 PM

I use mine all the time between DC and NJ, have never had problems with incorrect billing or extra fees (it's from MD). The worst part of the trip without fail is in Delaware, where the lanes are poorly designed so if there is any non-EZPASS traffic congestion before the toll, you must sit in it for a long time before the lanes widen out on the left into EZ-PASS-only lanes just before the toll plaza. It's incredibly annoying to pay so much to go through the tiny state of Delaware AND have to sit in their parking-lot-like traffic.

Posted by: DC | January 14, 2008 2:55 PM

I got my EZ Pass from the Penna Turnpike years ago, and it was free until recently. They instituted a $3 monthly charge across the board, with no warning and no letter informing users. So, as an occasional user who only looks at the EZ Pass statement (online) when I see the refill charge on my credit card, I was dismayed to see the balance being nickle and dimed. I am going to be switching to VA Smart Tag soon, since as of now there is no fee. For the people who say there's no fee, that totally depends on what state issued your tag to begin with. I feel having to pay a fee to pay a toll is ridiculous!

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | January 14, 2008 3:25 PM

Oops! I meant $3 ANNUAL fee per transponder, not monthly. Sorry. Anyways, this is new after being fee-free for almost 4 years. Grr....at least they could have sent an email or letter giving people the option to opt-out and close the account before the fees were started. Bad Pennsylvania! Bad!

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | January 14, 2008 3:39 PM

"There is NO monthly account fee in Maryland. Other jurisdictions do it differently. Some also charge an initial fee; again, MD does not. Right now."

Thanks for the info, I'll look into switching to MD. NJ does charge the $1/month fee.

Posted by: Mac | January 14, 2008 4:24 PM

While I use EZPass only a few times a year, I find the time savings to be significant -- on the order of 60-90 minutes -- on my travels between DC and New England.

I have a dedicated credit card for the EZ Pass fees, which enables me to easily check the charges. Should some jurisdiction start hitting me with fees, I'll dispute them, and ultimately not pay them.

Should EZ Pass jurisdictions start using EZ Pass fines as a cash cow, pass holders should complain to their local legislators. Look what happened to the abusive driver fees in Virginia. They'll soon be history, after only 6 months in force.

Posted by: Mister Methane | January 14, 2008 5:34 PM

On the PA Tpke, yes, you indeed can obtain, not just apply for, an EZ Pass transponder.

Don't know about all of the travel rest areas, but you can pick one up at a kiosk at the New Stanton travel plaza (at milepost 75 - a westbound plaza only, and the last one on the Tpke for westbound travelers.

And folks here in the DC/B-more region, you can pick up a transponder not just and the DMV or at toll facilities, but in grocery stores at the customer service counter.

At Giant locations in MD: http://www.ezpassmd.com/static/onthego/locations_giant.shtml
You could pick one up in Annapolis long before you hit the Bay Bridge.

At Mars (supermarket) locations in MD:
http://www.ezpassmd.com/static/onthego/locations_mars.shtml
Make a quick detour off of I-95 to the White Marsh or Rosedale location before you get the real punishment of the Perryville toll plaza and onto the Del Tpke.

Pick 'em up pre-loaded with a cash value for $25 or whatever it is now, then register it on-line when you get home and link it to a credit card. Can't get much easier than that.

Posted by: Pete | January 15, 2008 3:59 PM

I don't use E-Z pass because:

(1) One must pay in advance
(2) The transponder is ugly
(3) The transponder sticks on my windshield
(4) The transponder is too big
(5) E-Z Pass is a monopoly
(6) E-Z Pass behaves like a monopoly

Posted by: Sam | January 16, 2008 12:26 PM

Not so fast to praise the E-ZPass. Due to that same replinishing of the credit card, E-ZPass sent the wrong information to my bank when they tried to replinish. My bank did not allow them to use my card. I did not know this and drove up and down to NY. I was stuck with letters for the tolls as well as $25.00 administrative fee for each toll I went through. It has been a year now and I can't get E-ZPass to admit their error and waive the admin fees. I paid the tolls. I eventually paid the admin fees but not before they sent one of them to the credit agency and put a ding on my credit. Good on one hand bad on the other.

Posted by: Marylander | January 16, 2008 12:57 PM

The best thing about EZ pass is that I don't have to put down or hide my beer coming into the toll booth!

Posted by: Phil | January 16, 2008 1:04 PM

I have an EZ-Pass device on each of my four cars, but I have 3 grips. First, using EZ-Pass eliminates the cost of human toll collectors, but I am charged a monthly fee for the "privilege" of saving them money. Second, there is something inherently wrong that they draft the money in advance and earn interest with my money. Think about a store taking $100 from your bank before you buy anything. Third, and this is more about the toll than about EZ-Pass, I fume everytime I sit in traffic on a toll road.

Posted by: moohoo | January 16, 2008 1:47 PM

We got one for our daughter when she was in college (on our account).When she was dating a real turkey on the other side of the Tappan Zee Bridge we'd see her trips on our monthly statement and we'd casually mention how it seemed she was always going over to his side while he never came over to hers."Gee, I wonder why?" was her response. Well, soon enough she dropped him and we saved a bundle on EZPass charges.

Posted by: Joe B. | January 16, 2008 2:01 PM

We just got a letter in the mail about our EZ-Pass purchased from DRBA (Delaware). They'll be charging a monthly fee adding up to about $18/yr.

Posted by: Tony C | January 16, 2008 3:28 PM

Some people have complained about how ugly the EZPass transponder looks stuck to the inside of their windshield. Others have complained that it doesn't work in most rental cars.

Please note that you don't have to attach the transponder. We don't use toll roads often, so we never attached our transponder to the windshield. We keep it in the glovebox, and hold it up to the windsheld when on the rare occasions that we are on a toll road. When we rent a car (as we often do for long trips), we just grab the transponder out of the glove box of our car and carry it with us. No problem. No scrambling for change; no long lines.

And even though we use ours infrequently, it has never been canceled for infrequent usage (maybe this depends on the state where yours is registered).

EZPass has made driving long distances much less stressful. I really like it.

Posted by: Chevy Chase | January 16, 2008 3:58 PM

I love using EZ Pass. When both of my parents were in different hospitals in NYC, EZ Pass allowed me to reach them less stressed out and in less time. I too am bothered by the additional fees, but that dollar fee is far less than the agrivation and gas waiting in those extremely long lines.

Posted by: Michelle | January 16, 2008 4:30 PM

In NY you can get the pass from different agencies---T-Way, MTA, NY Bridge Authority, etc. You can also register the pass for big discounts on your commute, but you will be charged a monthly fee so the discount works only if you actually make the same trip a certain number of times. They announced a monthly fee for E-ZPass a while back, but I believe they dropped it after the public outcry. You do get discounts on the bridges and tunnels and the people who design the 20 lane toll booths going into NY City have finally figured out how to mark the lanes so you can figure out where the E-ZPass tolls are before you get there. Jersey is better, E-ZPass is usually all the way on one side and the Parkway actually has some high speed booths where you don't even slow down. I did find, last month, the geniuses in Florida still have their own program, despite the millions of northerners who come down each year and would use their passes if they could.

Posted by: Steve | January 16, 2008 5:11 PM

Just to reiterate: I got my EZPass from NJ/NY before MD joined the system. Out of sheer laziness and inertia I have never transfered it and now pay a $1/month account fee.

I had a transponder go out and got hit with fines from both NJ and PA. On the turnpikes they will charge you the full fee of the entire turnpike and a penalty. While I got out of both charges, it was a hassle finding the right form to contest the charge since you have to appeal through the individual toll authorities.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 16, 2008 5:55 PM

I was against using EZPass at first for many of the reasons listed above but when I started to travel from Philadelphia to Virginia on a weekly basis. It was no longer a question!! I now use it when I drive from Philly to Chicago. I hope that Ohio and Indiana will join up soon so I do not have to think at all about having money ready for tolls. I hope that all tolls in the US will have an EZPass option. I think the EZPAss technology actually makes our lives easier!

Posted by: RJ | January 17, 2008 3:38 AM

To RJ:

Indiana joined last year I believe, and it looks as if Ohio has plans to join later this year.

All this talk about fees made me look up EZPass on Wikipedia - they have a nice table of EZPass authorities and the fees they charge.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-ZPass#Account_charges_by_state

Posted by: Chasmosaur | January 18, 2008 9:43 AM

EZ Pass does make life easier though it costs $1 a month fee. Wish Ohio would join the numerous other states that understand cooperation moves all boats forward. OH still wants to install their own system. Government, ain't it beootiful!

Posted by: ch | January 21, 2008 9:40 AM

I love EZPass. Have had it on both cars for years. What I want to know is: (1) why aren't there more high-speed toll lanes like the ones on the NJ Turnpike and the Garden State? Wouldn't it be nice to zip through the toll at 50 mph as you were coming off that mess at the Delaware Memorial Bridge or the Harbor Tunnel or just plain anywhere. Delaware and Maryland need to get with the program. (2) As for those non-EZPass people who zip in and out of the EZPass lanes and make life more dangerous for the rest of us so they can save a few minutes, I'd love to see some law enforcement handing out big fat tickets -- only thing those selfish louts understand.

Posted by: Takoma Park | January 23, 2008 1:26 PM

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