Technology Killed the Tollbooth
I commute over the Tappan Zee Bridge on many days, and I’ve been marveling at the day-by-day construction on the New NY Bridge project for the past year. It’s really cool to see this bridge going up over the Hudson River north of New York City.
The Age of the Camera Gantry Begins
Some months back while I was driving home, I noticed a strange grid-based overhead structure going up on the Rockland County side of the southbound New York State Thruway. I could see multiple cameras on the top as cars whooshed by below.
Then, one day the Tarrytown toll plaza on the Westchester side just closed up shop.
I thought for a moment,
So no more tollbooths?
(Manned or unmanned)
Did that also mean no more tolls?!
(No, that couldn’t possibly be true…)
The toll collection process of course was continuing…
What had happened is the giant gantry on the other side of the river had quietly been ‘activated,’ turning all of lanes into cashless toll lanes on steroids.
Now, it’s not like there wasn’t cashless tolling before at the old toll plaza via E-ZPass, but you still had to slow down while passing through.
With the new giant gantry peering at every car overhead, now you are free to maintain normal highway speeds.
(Eliminating the toll ‘slow-down dance’ will save drivers up to nine hours a year!)
Tolls by Mail
The arrival of the giant gantry also ushered in a back to the future moment for drivers… the U.S. Postal Service.
If you don’t have E-ZPass, no problem…
One of those cameras living on the gantry will snap a photo of your license plate, and then you’ll get a bill in the mail.
You can pay on New York State’s website or the old fashioned way with a stamp.
The Phantom Tollbooth
About 50 million vehicles drive over the Tappan Zee every year, and about 80% already use E-ZPass.
As for all the others, welcome to Tolls by Mail.
(That’s a lot of stamps!)
Or they can sign up for E-ZPass.
Does the cashless tolling gantry foretell the end of the manned tollbooth?
Looks like it… eventually.
(This technology is already in use elsewhere around the country.)
And with it terminates the need to develop the mighty skill set of the ‘quarter throw.’
(My father was a master at winging quarters at toll baskets when I was a kid.)
Look at me, getting all nostalgic.
Then, I remember all those blasted toll lines in the pre E-ZPass days.
Resistance is Futile
I think it’s also important to recognize we’re passing through another ‘big brother’ moment brought to life by technology.
Other gantries will be erected on highways to help speed your travel, but it’s another example of more patterns of your life being integrated into the ‘Borg collective.’
Is that a problem or just progress?
A conversation for another day…
We received a toll charge and were told that Tolls by Mail had matched the car & plate photo to our address and person. The car was not ours, was never leased, rented or used by us. The plate letter/number sequence was not remotely near any of our vehicle plates. We do not live anywhere near the bridge in question, and certainly did not use it on that date. We have denied the charge by letter with certified mail/return receipt. There are many problems and lawsuits are popping up with this system according to research. There are 3 agencies between NY & NJ and Tolls by Mail is a third party service provider, which is requiring additional private information to clarify mistake. Consider this: what will prevent this automatic system from sending you tolls when they finally do have a verifiable photo of an owned vehicle?