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In age of all-electronic tolling, 76% penalty for cash

Don't like your E-ZPass or similar electronic tolling gadget? Tough. The Pennsylvania Turnpike may soon charge a 76 percent fee to analog drivers.
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Written by Andrew Nusca, Former editor on

If you want people to change, implement rules to discourage unwanted behavior.

That's the thinking behind a new plan to charge motorists 76 percent more on the Pennsylvania Turnpike if they fail to use the "E-ZPass" electronic device next time they hit the highway.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the plan won't go into effect for at least another five years because of the tremendous infrastructure upgrade necessary to implement all-electronic tolling. (Equipment and ramps, yes, but also the legislative cover to charge such high fees to analog drivers.)

But the numbers add up: it would cost $320 million to install all-electronic tolling on the turnpike's 532 miles of roadway, and another $83 million a year to operate it.

Yet toll collectors cost $65 million a year alone, and in the long-term the system would pay for itself -- especially since tolls would only likely go up.

So why the huge charge for analog drivers? Paul Nussbaum explains:

But success depends on widespread use of E-ZPass by motorists and truckers. Electronic billing is easy, but non-E-ZPass billing is time-consuming and expensive. Vehicles' license plates are video-photographed, and the vehicles' owners are billed by mail. It then takes three months to collect about half of those pay-by-mail tolls, and many of the rest go unpaid, other all-electronic tolling agencies have found.

At the end of the day: a net gain of $5 million.

Would you support a penalty for drivers who use more expensive means of transaction? Sound off below.

Pa. Turnpike looks at much higher non-E-ZPass rates [Philly.com]

Photo: Nicholas/Flickr

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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