People who use an E-ZPass on the Pennsylvania Turnpike already pay less than those who pay cash. If the Turnpike Commission converts to a cashless all-electronic collection system, the savings will be even greater.
Turnpike spokesman Carl DeFebo said the All-Electronic Toll (AET) feasibility report states that the surcharge on those who don’t have an E-ZPass could be as high as 76 percent based on studies of other systems that have AET.
“That number is really out there,” he said. “E-ZPass customers now have a 17 1/2 percent discount. That will continue. Compare the video system to the cash rate. The maximum surcharge will more likely be 50 percent.”
If the commission approves an AET system, turnpike motorists who do not have an E-ZPass will have their license plates video-photographed.
The registered owner of that vehicle will be billed by mail. They will be mailed bills twice and if they don’t pay, a citation will be issued similar to the citation now sent to people who don’t have an E-ZPass but who go through the E-ZPass toll lane. Sixty-eight percent of
turnpike customers already use one.
“Keep in mind the E-ZPass annual cost is $6 for the account fee,” DeFebo said. “Even if you only use it a couple times a year, a longer trip will make up that $6 quickly. People could go to our AET website (www.paturnpike.com/aet) and compare a trip to see what their savings
A sample was tried on the website. From Somerset to Valley Forge, the cash-paying customer pays $19.20. The E-ZPass customer pays $16.24.
That is a savings of $2.96. One round trip would almost pay the annual cost of the E-ZPass.
People may use one E-ZPass in several vehicles, but must register each vehicle’s license plate and description. The passes are attached with adhesive strips and people receive two sets of strips with the pass and may request extras. People may apply online or in Somerset at the Giant Eagle Get-Go or the AAA office, both along Center Avenue. The registered owner must start the account with $35 and can either select auto replenish, which means your credit card will be billed when your balance goes under $10, or choose to replenish yourself. That $35 is not a monthly fee, it is used for tolls.
Transportation consultants McCormick Taylor and Wilbur Smith Associates conducted the study. The report estimates it would cost $320 million to install AET on the turnpike and about $83 million a year to operate it. AET would save money by eliminating the cost of toll collectors, currently $65.4 million a year. Officials for Teamsters Local 77, which represents turnpike toll collectors, could not be reached for comment.
The report outlines a series of benchmarks that would have to be met before the commission can make a final decision. One of those benchmarks is if the commission can reach a reciprocity agreement with other states. Under any set of circumstances, a conversion would take at least five years, according to the report.
“As the report makes clear, we have a lot of work to do before a final decision can be made, but this is an important step forward — one we’re excited to announce and share with our customers,” Turnpike CEO Roger Nutt said in a written statement. “All-Electronic Tolling is a significant trend in our industry that a number of other agencies have implemented or are considering, and it is important that we thoroughly study such a possible conversion.”
The next step is for the commission to hire a program-management firm to oversee the next phase of the study and potentially assist the commission in a conversion to an AET system. The commission will also schedule meetings with employees. Public meetings will be held later.