Excuse my logic, but sometimes I really do get it right. Those of you who follow this blog may recall my November 1, 2011 post that called into question the necessity of continuous toll increases at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey run Hudson River crossings. Only a couple weeks after that posting media reports began surfacing about questionably high salary add-ons for Port Authority Executives and other administrative staff. I am not saying that my blog was the catalyst for this surge in demand for Port Authority accountability. I am only saying I am good at sniffing out things that don’t always make sense.
However let’s cut to the chase. This post is about another bizarre and annoying aspect of many toll roads in the northeast and I suspect other parts of theUnited Statesas well.
About ten years ago in the middle of the summer on a Sunday evening, I was travelling home from theNew Jersey Shore. I was using the New Jersey Turnpike northbound. Traffic had been refreshingly light for a Sunday afternoon and I was in good spirits about that fact. However as I approached the toll plaza for exit 18 my good spirits flew right out the window faster than the spreading of a rumor about Bon Jovi’s death. Traffic had come to a complete standstill about three miles before the toll. I took note of the time on my car clock. Then I waited. Waited. Waaaaited. By the time I reached the toll booth and paid my toll, one and a half hours had elapsed. I was absolutely pissed off.
A couple of days later as I was still lamenting the inefficiency of the NJ Turnpike Authority at handling large volumes of traffic at their tolls, I hatched an idea and jotted off a letter to the governor of New Jersey. What I suggested was a revamping of the toll rates. Instead of having tolls in amounts such as $2.35, $1.65, or $3.85, I proposed rounding all tolls to easy to make change for figures – for example, $1.00, $1.50, $2.00, $2.50. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist and thank God because I am not one, to figure out that toll collectors can make change faster for toll rates with a zero at the end of them than with a 5. There is less calculation required on their part and the handling of less actual coinage.
Did I just mention calculation? Just today, I telephoned the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and asked an executive there if toll collectors are equipped inside their booth with a device that calculates the change due each customer. The answer was no. Toll collectors must manually calculate the change due for each customer. Now at the beginning of a shift this may or may not be relatively easy for experienced toll takers. However, as the hapless toll collector begins counting change for 500, 1,000 and maybe 2,000 cars during his shift this can become very mind numbing. Logically, he may begin to slow down the pace at which he handles transactions. That translates to longer and longer waits at the toll booth.
I know for a fact that the New York State Thruway also operates this antiquated schedule of toll rates. So does the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Just to confirm that the Pa. Turnpike does this too, I went to the toll calculator on their website, entered a point of entry (Exit 359 -Delaware River Bridge) and then several different points of exit (Exit 339 for Fort Washington and Exit 326 forValley Forge). The rates came back $3.20 and $4.75. This confirms my theory that they have umpteen different prices for their huge inventory of exits.
As the population on this planet continues to explode along with the amount of cars on the roads, the people in charge of the super highways need to streamline their operations into efficiently-run enterprises. It is interesting to note that the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey just changed their toll rates and in most cases the tolls end in a “0” cents rate. (In a few cases tolls are $.75).
I am not saying there shouldn’t be tolls. However, I think it is nervy to make people wait on tiresome long lines and then ask them to spend money at the end of the wait. This is especially aggravating for people who have just had a hard day at the office, or the construction site.
Let’s revamp toll prices to speed up what is currently a system that can best be described as archaic. Keep America rolling, not crawling.
Copyright 2011; Greg S.