Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Toll Transponders

So, about that new road (the Triangle Parkway) that opened up two weeks ago. Starting January 3rd, it will be a toll road. It will be one of a few toll roads in the country that will be tolled exclusively on an electronic basis, with no toll booths. That means it's time for North Carolina to set up its own brand of on-the-fly "E-Z Pass"-type tolling. Introducing NC Quick Pass!

Amber and I received our toll transponders last week. That means on local toll roads, we'll get the cheaper "NC Quick Pass" toll rate, instead of the higher "Bill By Mail" toll rate. (Cars without transponders will have their license plate snapped, and will get a bill in the mail.) But the reason I got the "hard case" transponder instead of the less-of-an-eyesore, and cheaper, sticker transponder is because, unlike the stickers, my transponder will be compatible with the Northeast's E-Z Pass, Florida's SunPass, Texas's TxTag, and Illinois's I-Pass. No longer will we need to bring six $1 bills with us every time we take the West Virginia Turnpike, because we'll be E-Z Pass people! … Well, eventually. They don't work out-of-state yet (or vice-versa), and I read somewhere that it will be a few more months, potentially not until next summer, before our transponders will work out-of-state. That was kind of a letdown, because I was hoping this would be in place before this season's holiday driving. If North Carolina wasn't instituting its own toll roads, then I would have actually gotten an out-of-state transponder years ago. But instead, I waited patiently all these years in order to get a North Carolina one.

That said, here's a point of contention I have: we were charged $20 each just to get the transponders, and we won't get that money back. Other states give out toll transponders for free. On the other hand, I don't know if all E-Z Pass states offer cheaper rates to those with E-Z Pass than to those who pay with cash. I know some do, but not all...I think. Either way, I guess it could be worse. For example, Colorado's E-470 tollway, which leads to the Denver airport, is one of the most expensive toll roads in the country. After driving a rental car on it one time, my parents received a bill in the mail for $25.

Is having this thing on your windshield a distraction when you're driving? Not really. It's mostly hidden behind the rear view mirror. Not an issue.

So, Amber and I now have $20 in our account balance. I'll drive down the Parkway once next month just to make sure it works. After that...well, we may not need them again until next time we're on the West Virginia Turnpike.

No comments: