Editorial: Turnpike overcharges another sneaky subsidy
Pay a toll in cash and you know exactly how many nickels and dimes you are throwing in the hopper.
Drive through the E-ZPass lane where the money is automatically deducted from an account via a transponder and it should happen the same way.
But sometimes it doesn’t. And if you don’t check your account every time, you might not know.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission has confirmed that v-tolls — sometimes significantly higher fees — are charged when the transponders don’t register.
It makes sense that a penalty would be assessed if you drive through knowing you aren’t paying the toll. What doesn’t make sense is substantially penalizing drivers for equipment malfunction or misread without any notice.
The commission places a portion of the blame on drivers who aren’t using their transponders correctly, and that’s a legitimate problem. If you don’t mount your E-ZPass where the directions tell you to mount it, it is on you when it doesn’t read properly.
But an email is a pretty cost-effective notification. One Greensburg couple had $300 worth of penalty charges in 20 months. They didn’t find out because of a communication from the turnpike commission. They did their own investigation after reading a Facebook post from someone else who was overcharged.
Think about it like another transaction. You order something from Amazon on your phone, but you lose signal before you complete your purchase. Should Amazon send you an email notifying you that the sale wasn’t completed, or should they just charge it to your credit card with a 700% surcharge?
It’s bad enough that we pay tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike expecting the money to go toward maintaining the turnpike when it actually gets pirated away to pay for other transportation projects, and that we pay a tax on gas that is supposed to pay for roads but is siphoned into other budget areas.
But when the commission is already charging tolls that balloon year after year, these penalty tolls seem like a particularly sneaky way of padding the bottom line.