Posted in: Safety,
by Gregg Laskoski on Jan 7, 2014 06:00 AM
If you think about it, states that have no income tax do need to collect taxes efficiently, one way or another, and on the roads Florida knows how to get into your wallet.
In Florida, aggressive selling of SunPasses has allowed the state to enjoy one of the highest electronic tolling rates in the country: 91 percent of vehicles on the turnpike roads in the southernmost part of the state have SunPass transponders.
In Massachusetts, by contrast, only 67 percent of drivers who cross the Tobin Bridge use E-ZPasses, which are only available at a comparative handful of locations in the state. And as Massachusetts readies for the switch to cash-free toll plazas statewide, the Boston Globe's Martine Powers reports there remains a long way to go to prepare for the logistical challenges of the new system.
The biggest issue is accurately identifying and billing those without transponders, and the key there is minimizing the ranks of those who raise the cost of collection.
“It’s a very small percentage of our overall traffic that’s using the billing piece,” said Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti, executive director and chief executive officer of Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise, the organization that manages toll roads in Florida. “That’s a very important factor.”
Neil Gray, director of government affairs at the International Bridge, Tunnel, and Turnpike Association, said that states often find it important to hold down the number of people who are billed based on their license plate.
“There’s no doubt about it,” Gray said, “pay-by-plate is more costly and more complicated.”
Florida is one of the earliest adopters of so-called open-road tolling in America: In 2010, the state instituted an experiment with cash-free tolling on the southernmost 47 miles of the turnpike.
Instead of toll booths, cars whiz underneath a large archway, called a gantry, at highway speed. “DO NOT SLOW,” warn signs as cars approach the archways. “WE WILL BILL YOU WITH TOLL-BY-PLATE.”
The system, much like one in use in some lanes at the toll plaza in Hampton, N.H., reduced congestion, and eliminated the need for hundreds of toll collectors throughout the system, which will lead to millions of dollars in cost savings in coming years.
Most important, it’s safer: Within three months of eliminating toll booths on the Homestead Extension, car accidents within 1 mile of each toll plaza dropped by an average of 76 percent.
No doubt about it, Florida's SunPass system works well, and motorists love the ability to breeze through tolls without slowing down. But there are still some things that could use a little more attention, such as ensuring that signage accurately identifies the lanes that are 'SunPass only' versus those that are staffed with toll collectors, or baskets where you may throw your change.
Nobody wants to encounter those motorists criss-crossing in panic at the last possible moment!