When the Massachusetts Department of Transportation switched the Tobin Bridge from its traditional toll-taking methods to the contemporary and electronic E-ZPass system on Monday, it seemed like a no-brainer. The idea, of course, is to diminish bridge traffic and allow for a smooth ride into the city.
Though the practicality is clearly evident, I couldn’t help but wonder about those unfortunate drivers who have yet to velcro an E-ZPass to the inside of their windshield. Doesn’t it seem a bit unfair that the preeminent entranceway to Boston from the north is more accommodating to the E-ZPass crowd?
I figured as much … until I saw the data.
A MassDOT spokesperson confirmed with BostInno that more than 37,000 transactions take place on the Tobin on a daily basis, a figure that’s just shy of six percent of the entire city’s population.
Can you imagine the sheer congestion when one of the Tobin’s three lanes is shut down for maintenance or any other reason?
The most recent statistic provided by MassDOT was on December 20, 2013, which shows that 10,396 cash customers crossed the bridge, along with 26,308 E-ZPass customers. That constitutes a 71.57 percent share of vehicles boasting a transponder.
August 16, 2013 saw the most cash customers with 12,669. That same day 24,224 vehicles used an E-ZPass.
Now, consider that E-ZPass customers only have to pay $2.50 when driving across the Tobin compared to $3 for everyone else whose license plates will now be recorded so that MassDOT can send a bill to the corresponding address.
Collectively, those 12,669 vehicles paid our state $38,007 when they could’ve saved 50 cents apiece and paid $31,672.50 instead. Not to mention all the time it likely took them to fumble around for exact change, or fish their wallet out from underneath their seats.
What’s great about this pay-per-plate method is that it incentivizes people to apply for an E-ZPass instead of offer a less efficient alternative or even reprimand them with additional costs or bills.
As for the toll takers, well, they may not be situated on the Tobin anymore, but MassDOT has offered them a number of cushy options for their future.
MassDOT told BostInno that 200 toll collection employees were offered retirement incentives; some, not eligible for retirement, were offered retention stipends; and others offered education and career training funds as to not completely cease their plans for higher-ed or applicable career.
And the Tobin Bridge is only the beginning. The conversion of the entire length of the Massachusetts Turnpike, and the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels, is estimated to be complete in mid-2016.
Image via MassDOT