Transponder charges

The Boston Herald is reporting today that the Massachusetts Turnpike is thinking about charging to replace its electronic transponders used in the Fast Lane toll booths to collect tolls. It's news, but it's no surprise, to me.

Since Gov. Mitt Romney came into office state bureaucracies have sought to increase revenue by adding or increasing user fees. The cash hungry Mass. Pike is no different. In fact, the Pike is probably second only to the Registry as the agency most likely to implement user fees that will affect commuter and casual driver alike. This idea to charge a fee for replacing transponders that die because of malfunction or end of battery life is one of those bank-style hidden "convenience" fees that creep into our wallets.

I never got a transponder when they were released in 1998 because drivers had to buy them or put down some kind of deposit, unless of course the drivers were BankBoston customers. Those people received the transponders for free because BankBoston was a sponsor of the new program. I didn't feel I should have to pay for the device. EZ Pass in New York gave out their transponders for free, and they worked on Massachusetts toll roads. I know several people who paid the monthly maintenance fee for the EZ Pass rather than buy the transponder, and this new replacement fee by the Pike is a good example why. Economist's lesson number one: Buy what appreciates and lease what depreciates.

So, I suggest that all those Fast Lane users who will face a replacement fee to consider EZ Pass as a protest to Fast Lane transponder replacement fees.

Yeah, I used to be one of those EZPass types - until my transponder died and I proved too lazy to get a new one (how do you know it's died? You start getting violation notices from the turnpike authority; but they waive 'em all once you prove you have a valid EZPass). Funny thing is, though, most of the time I get on the pike in Framingham faster now than if I still had a transponder.

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