Wednesday, October 12, 2011

NC Quick Pass

North Carolina gets its very first toll road in a few months when the Triangle Expressway opens. I'm going to skip over the political discussion that goes along with making a few miles But before I talk about the transponders that will go along with them and are now available...

I may or may not have gone through this before (I don't feel like looking), but my political take on toll roads is this. It does not seem fair for some roads (I-540 in northern Wake County) to be untolled while other roads (the new NC-540 in western Wake County) are tolled. In my ideal world, every limited-access freeway or expensive bridge would be tolled. The toll amounts would be far less than the current rates on toll roads, which we could get away with because we're now tolling every freeway everywhere. Of course, taking something that's free (even though it isn't really - we're paying for this already with tax dollars) and making it not free is unpopular politically and can't really be implemented at this point. Raising taxes to cover the costs of new roads is also currently taboo. (I still think that federal gas taxes should be much higher than they are.) So when it comes to building new roads that we can't afford to build, we are left with two choices. 1) Build the road as a toll road. 2) Don't build the road. Because these are the only two choices, I suppose building a few miles of tolled expressway amongst hundreds of miles of free exprewssway can be justified.

These new toll roads will be tolled electronically only, which means that you'll either get a bill in the mail, or you'll need to buy a transponder to put on your windshield. As someone who frequently travels out of state (although not as much this year), I've actually been looking forward to buying such a transponder for quite a while. No more paying with cash along the West Virginia Turnpike or all of those pesky toll roads and bridges in the Northeast, because I'll have an E-Z Pass compatible transponder. Yeah! I've considered buying an E-Z Pass from another state, but have held out knowing that I would eventually be able to get one directly from North Carolina. Well, that day has arrived.

North Carolina's new "NC Quick Pass" will be E-Z Pass compatible (as well as with Florida's Sun Pass, and probably others)...eventually. From here: "North Carolina is working with other toll agencies (E-ZPass, SunPass, etc.) to allow NC Quick Pass to be accepted for payment of tolls on other states' toll roads and out-of-state transponders to work in North Carolina. Currently, NC Quick Pass will ONLY work for payment of tolls in North Carolina." Given how long they have had to plan this, I think these things should be compatible with E-Z Pass from DAY ONE. No excuses. Also of note is that you can get a sticker transponder for $5 or a hard case transponder for $20; only the hard case transponders will be compatible with E-Z Pass. Which, I think that's more a function of the fact that E-Z Pass is based on older technology, than any fault of North Carolina's. But still...why isn't this ready from the beginning?

I was looking forward to using the E-Z Pass lane on our way to Toledo for Thanksgiving, but it sounds like we'll have to wait for that. And I don't plan on taking the new Triangle Expressway all that much, because given where we live, the new road will not benefit us. I'm still going to get my transponder sooner rather than later, though.


Anonymous said...

I dislike toll roads for the same reasons listed. Especially the fact that the exit I used to take to T.W Alexander Dr. from NC-147 was closed permanently and now is replace with a LESS CONVENIENT and MORE EXPENSIVE (non-free) exit further down the road! Cannot really figure out why they eliminated that except to extort $ from folks commuting into RTP!

Unfortunately, it appears that the hard case transponder is a non-refundable fee—even if you return it. I have a NY E-Z Pass and the account and transponder was free. In NC it should be a $20 deposit that is refundable when returned—unless this is the plan but they don’t have that spelled-out on the web yet. The reason is that those transponders have batteries usually that can run out or they can malfunction from being in a hot car on a 100° day etc.

Anonymous said...

The problem for North Carolina Quickpass with interoperability was not technology but legalities. Under existing state law, toll records were subject to inquiries via the state open records law (FOIA). This meant anyone's transactions could be requested by any citizen as a matter of state financial transaction records. Efforts were made last year to get a bill through that would have excluded electronic toll accounts from FOIA inquiries and left it only available with a court order/warrant. Without this protection in place, the interagency group that runs E-ZPass could not begin to accept Quickpass transponders or vice versa due to their privacy protections required of all member authorities regarding accounts.

Once this is resolved by the North Carolima legislature during this session, the folks at Quickpass will be able to get interoperability going within a few weeks. Everything else is in place.

Anonymous said...

it's a highway robbery in my opinion. I don't recall crossing any toll yet but i got a statement that I owed $6.45. Holy crap! everything showed zero but it mentioned previous invoice for 45c. Obviously they charged me additional $6 for missing a payment I didn't know I crossed somewhere. WOW! talking about highway robbery!

Anonymous said...

Same as above! We got a bill saying we owed $6.80.Never been on a actual toll road! The bill said we owed a previous amount of $.80 and the late fee was $6.00. I love my North Carolina!!!But, shame on this disgraceful way of getting money from innocent citizens!