mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Guess I'll be mailing my EZ-Pass back in a few months...

When I first moved to Maryland, I didn't even think of getting an EZ-Pass, the elctronic toll collection transmitter that's popular on the East Coast. New Jersey, where I originally lived, charged for the EZ-Pass, and I figured every state did. So I was pleasantly surprised that Maryland didn't, and I signed up for it. I don't do a huge amount of driving on toll roads, but it came in handy a few times - during business trips to Virginia and New York, where I could just print out my account statement for reimbursement, on trips back from my parent's house in NJ to pay the toll over the Delaware River pm I-78 West, and for my occasional trips through the Harbor Tunnel on 95, especially while I was taking night MBA classes in Columbia and driving back to White Marsh.

But they are all things I could live without. Or I guess I'll have to learn to live without them by July, anyway. Via of all places, deal site slickdeals, I found out that Maryland is going to join the ranks of states that charge for EZ-Pass - specifically, $1.50 a month. There is no way I'm going to pay $18 a year for something that I seldom use, so I'll be sending my EZ-Pass back before the charges kick in.

Charging for EZ-Pass is among the most monumentally stupid ideas I've ever heard of. EZ-Pass is something the government should be promoting. First of all, it keeps an account balance, and every time your balance hits $10, it recharges your credit card to bring it up to $25. That means that the state gets to sit on a big pile of money, earning interest - especially from occasional users like myself who take a while to spend down their balance, who are the least likely to keep it once the charges kick in. Plus it saves labor costs - fewer tolltakers, keeps traffic moving faster, helps the environment thanks to fewer idling cars waiting to pay tolls, and generally makes driving easier and more pleasant. Charging for things where you would be better off if more people had them is a complete break from logic - as if the government started taxing you for having advanced degrees, or for mowing your lawn, or levied a tax on vegetables.

Evidently, Virginia is one of the few states that doesn't (yet) charge for the transponder. Their website discourages out-of-staters, but if I'm ever in the area I'm seriously thinking of going to one of their in-person sites and try to get one. And some two-buck Chuck, while I'm at it.


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