No Cash Allowed: Tobin Bridge Tolls Go All-Electronic Monday

Motorists pass through Tobin Bridge cash toll booths in January 2004. (Robert Spencer/AP)

Motorists pass through Tobin Bridge cash toll booths in January 2004. (Robert Spencer/AP)

BOSTON — Motorists on Monday morning will find that cash payments are no longer accepted for tolls on the Tobin Memorial Bridge.

The transition to all-electronic tolling on the Tobin will officially take place either late Sunday evening or early Monday and will serve as the pilot launch for plans by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to cease cash transactions at toll locations statewide.

Why start all-electronic tolling on the Tobin Bridge?

“The Tobin was selected because it is isolated from the rest of the tolling locations in Massachusetts,” said Michael Verseckes, deputy director of communications for MassDOT. “The western Turnpike, which is I-90 from the town of Weston to West Stockbridge, is an entry/exit ticket system, meaning you pay the toll based on the distance traveled.”

Tolls will be collected electronically either through a driver’s E-ZPass transponder or “via a program in which a camera captures the license plate and the vehicle’s registered owner is billed by mail,” MassDOT officials said in a statement released in May of last year.

The price stays the same: $2.50 for those with an E-ZPass transponder, and $3.00 for those who “pay by plate.”

MassDOT “strongly encourages” drivers to sign up for E-ZPass transponders.

According to the statement, in 2012 there were 4.1 million cash transactions — an average of 11,000 per day –on the Tobin Bridge, which carries Route 1 over the Mystic River in Boston. The bridge offers a toll discount program to eligible Chelsea and Charlestown residents.

Verseckes said MassDOT’s toll collectors have been distributing small leaflets to cash customers to notify them of the change.

“We have also deployed several message boards along the Route 1 corridor,” he said. “The message boards are to provide notice, but they also have a message encouraging drivers to sign up for an E-ZPass account.”

Three of the Tobin Bridge’s booths have already been removed, and the remaining four will be removed in the coming weeks and leave a booth-less stretch, according to Verseckes.

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  • crescentfang

    OK, so is there some other way to get into Boston form the North Shore without Big Brother watching you and keeping a record of your trip? Not that I go into Boston a lot, but I am not about to go through one of these NSA inspired tracking systems. I grew up during the cold war when we understood the dangers of a surveillance society and this whole idea gives me the chills.

    The other problem, by the way, is that these systems will allow Massachusetts to turn every road in the Commonwealth into a toll road. The concept of a free public highway is dead if this gets any traction.

  • bobert

    yeah, this is a bad thing. I plan to be the last person in America to buy one of these transponders. I’m totally willing to pay for roads and bridges, but I have no interest in participating in yet another large database. Where and when I travel is no one’s business but my own.

  • CapeCodJim

    They call it “EZ pass” because it make it soooooo easy for them to pick our pockets. Once they force everyone to get one they’ll track you when you leave your driveway and charge for every mile. Can we, the people VOTE tolls out of existence? How much does it cost them to mail a bill for a $3.00 toll? It’s crazy! They’ll prolly have one non-EZ pass lane so you have to wait an hour so they can take a picture of your plate. Why do WE allow this?

  • justinmbarlow

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    weeks an would you believe ten-k this past-month . with-out a doubt this is the
    easiest-job I’ve ever had . I actually started six months/ago and pretty much
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  • bethie

    I think the traffic jam tomorrow morning is going to be OUTSTANDING. And tourists are going to freak out and not know what to do. There will be accidents galore. Are they sure it is worth it to get rid of actual people with jobs?

  • rfra20

    I would hardy call someone sitting at a booth all day collecting $ and handing out change a “job”. I agree that these things are now effectively NSA endorsed monitoring stations but who’s fault is that? We as a society don’t have the guts to limit the intrusion of government into our lives so deal with the consequences. If there were serious oversight these records could be promptly destroyed (for real – not pretend destroyed) and we’d simply have a more efficient payment collection system. Also, seeing as nobody is apparently willing to pay for roads and bridges through taxes….well the $$ have to come from somewhere.

  • hamr59

    Transponder or not, they’ll take photos of your plate. I don’t know what point there is in fussing over the transponders, unless you cover up your plate and violate the law.

  • Thinkfreeer

    There are many advantages to the state in implementing cashless tolls and many dangers to the citizen. The state saves money – plain and simple. But I would be willing to bet they will not correspondingly reduce the tolls. As a matter of fact, they are basically saying that they are going to charge extra if you don’t have an EZ Pass and they have to mail the charge to you.

    Note they will be mailing the charge to the person to whom the vehicle is registered. That then makes the the owner of the vehicle responsible to figure out who the heck went through the toll booth with their vehicle if they want to recover the cost. It’s also a penalty without due process of law. It is the burden of the state to prove who was the driver. There can be no legal penalty for failing to pay the toll.

    And if you are renting a vehicle, watch out! If you use the rental car agency’s transponder of if they don’t have one and mail the toll to the rental agency you will be paying administrative fees also. At Hertz it is 9.95 a day for every day you rented the car – no how many days you went through a toll. I had this happen to me. I went though one $5 toll, but I had the car for 3 days, so it cost me almost $35!

    The EZ pass is easier and, as long as there are cash tolls, will save you time at the toll booths. But if we go cashless, there is no longer any advantage to having the EZ pass.

    In Massachusetts, if you have a Mass issued transponder and you fail to pay a toll or penalty, they can revoke your license to drive. This is not the case if you get an EZ Pass from NH (hint hint). They typically need to have the account connected to your bank account and they take money in advance of any tolls. Think about that. Do you really want the state to be authorized to remove money from your bank account? What are your options when they (or really their computer) make a mistake? Can you get it reversed pending an investigation?

  • callmebc

    Gawd, what an insanely dumb idea. I generally avoid toll roads but still take them occasionally — and I don’t want to get a transponder just for this. So I would be nicked for an extra 50 cents at each toll booth. If they can read license plates, why not just allow for some prepaid card for your windshield that can be read like an MBTA Charley card instead? Or how an app for NFC-equipped smartphones? And pity the poor tourist just passing through — you know the warning signs will be illiterate and confusing, and you also know there are going to be issues with billing via license plate look-ups.

    Yet another example of technology and government not really mixing well.

  • Thinkfreeer

    Name calling of people you disagree with will get you nothing but criticism. People who use the “if you have nothing to hide” reason to defend monitoring would support any kind of government action in the name of “reasonableness.” All it takes is for people to say nothing and just go along before we we have fascism or a dictatorship. I, for one, will continue to speak up and criticize the likes of your thinking.

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