Ellen Perlman was a GOVERNING staff writer and technology columnist.E-mail: email@example.com
Maryland is thinking about charging a fee for E-ZPass users, whether they use the pass or not, according to a Baltimore Sun story. Not a good idea.
Number one, because I use an E-ZPass, and it would cost me $1.50 a month to keep it -- even though I use it rarely. Number two, because I use an E-ZPass and I likely will cancel it. It makes little sense to me to pay for nothing.
I'm guessing I'm not alone. It won't feel right to occasional users to, say, rack up $9 over six months, and then use the pass to zip through, a $2 toll near Baltimore or a 50 cent toll in Virginia.That becomes an $11 or $9.50 toll, in effect.
So what will be the result?
Longer lines at toll booths and perhaps a commensurate need to hire more toll booth staff. Less incentive for drivers to consider getting an E-ZPass. More paperwork for the state, from people who cancel their passes. And, perhaps, game the system by ordering another one if they have frequent trips on toll roads coming up.
This may sound silly but I know someone who wouldn't buy an RFID-enabled SmarTrip card for DC's Metro system because he didn't want to give $5 to "the system."
Maybe Maryland has taken this into consideration and assumes that most people use their E-ZPass (compatible with Smart Tags and other state zip-through-tollbooth cards) enough that the fee won't deter them.
But it seems that with all the talk of too much traffic, global warming, extra highway lanes and all, it makes sense to set policies that encourage better driving practices. Not ones that put people back in long lines, idling at tollbooths. Even if it's a small number.
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.