Toll Roads & Personal Transponders

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Neil Maley

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This is what I'll be doing with my GPS in the future, VoR. I am not going to put up with the absolute insanity of "cashless tolls" and rental cars and switching on non-existant transponders and adding license plates online which may or may not work, not to mention paying a daily rate whether I use the service or not ... I'm just not gonna go there any more. I may just stop travelling east of the Mississippi altogethter!
That still leaves you with Florida....
 
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VoR61

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In the case of Florida, we went through Jacksonville on our way to Tampa. The Google mapping shows two paths. The first is 1 minute faster and bypasses tolls. But from our experience the route through Orlando (with tolls) would have actually been faster. Most GPS units will choose the former as it is "faster". But the Orlando route brings into play the possibility of transponders . . .

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Neil Maley

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In the case of Florida, we went through Jacksonville on our way to Tampa. The Google mapping shows two paths. The first is 1 minute faster and bypasses tolls. But from our experience the route through Orlando (with tolls) would have actually been faster. Most GPS units will choose the former as it is "faster". But the Orlando route brings into play the possibility of transponders . . .

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The Florida Turnpike has tolls. We’ve learned we’d rather pay the tolls than drive on I-95 with no tolls. The traffic is terrible on 95 but the Turnpike rarely has traffic jams.
 

brillohead

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Our last trip took us to the Upper Peninsula. Locating/understanding the toll plazas was a bit difficult, but in the end cash worked. There was one on 1-94 and one at the North end of the bridge from Mackinaw City to points North.
IMO, there's a huge difference between a toll booth for a bridge and tolls along a highway.

The bridges in Michigan that charge tolls have manned booths to pay cash. It's not confusing at all. Other than bridges, Michigan doesn't have toll roads, including on I-94 (which is four hours away from Mackinaw City).

Chicago's highway system is a right royal PITA if you don't have a transponder, though, as you have to pay some tolls at random intermittent spots in the road, and you pay other tolls at exits (which don't always have a cash option, manned or not). I can't believe that there aren't more accidents on their already-pretty-dangerous roads, because those without transponders are constantly having to change lanes and come to a stop in a toll plaza, then re-accelerate to highway speeds and merge into traffic, only do to it all over again six miles down the road, over and over and over.

I'm always amazed to see Illinois license plates in the cash lanes at Chicago's highway toll plazas. I only go there on average once a year, and I'm considering the hassle and expense of paying for my own transponder -- I can't imagine actually LIVING there and not owning a transponder!!!
 
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VoR61

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For clarification only, by "Locating/understanding the toll plazas was a bit difficult" I meant that when we mapped out the trip it was complicated (for us) to determine exactly where we would have to pay tolls and if they were cash. Eventually, after much searching, we were successful.
 
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IMO, there's a huge difference between a toll booth for a bridge and tolls along a highway.

The bridges in Michigan that charge tolls have manned booths to pay cash. It's not confusing at all. Other than bridges, Michigan doesn't have toll roads, including on I-94 (which is four hours away from Mackinaw City).

Chicago's highway system is a right royal PITA if you don't have a transponder, though, as you have to pay some tolls at random intermittent spots in the road, and you pay other tolls at exits (which don't always have a cash option, manned or not). I can't believe that there aren't more accidents on their already-pretty-dangerous roads, because those without transponders are constantly having to change lanes and come to a stop in a toll plaza, then re-accelerate to highway speeds and merge into traffic, only do to it all over again six miles down the road, over and over and over.

I'm always amazed to see Illinois license plates in the cash lanes at Chicago's highway toll plazas. I only go there on average once a year, and I'm considering the hassle and expense of paying for my own transponder -- I can't imagine actually LIVING there and not owning a transponder!!!
The nice thing about Illinois toll roads is that they are part of the EZ pass system. So my NC transponder works quite nicely in Illinois, and we get the discount too!
 
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brillohead

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For clarification only, by "Locating/understanding the toll plazas was a bit difficult" I meant that when we mapped out the trip it was complicated (for us) to determine exactly where we would have to pay tolls and if they were cash. Eventually, after much searching, we were successful.
Gotcha!

Yes, toll situations are almost impossible to suss out in advance... and for people who rarely encounter them because they don't exist in their state, an extra level of confusion is added in!
 
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brillohead

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The nice thing about Illinois toll roads is that they are part of the EZ pass system. So my NC transponder works quite nicely in Illinois, and we get the discount too!
It would be nice if EVERY system worked together (hello, it's 2019, people!)... but it still leaves those of us who don't have toll roads at all with no options besides pay for something we will only use once a year, or pay double the tolls plus extra time and fuel and reduced safety.
 

KMC

Mar 8, 2018
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I was always concerned with adding a rental car plate to my account, even temporarily, would run the risk of getting toll charges for the rental car when it was used by other people. Do you think there is any risk here?
 
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brillohead

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I was always concerned with adding a rental car plate to my account, even temporarily, would run the risk of getting toll charges for the rental car when it was used by other people. Do you think there is any risk here?
Plus, it sounds like it's not JUST the plate that gets the toll added to your account -- it's the transponder PLUS the plate number. If you have your transponder with you back home, it doesn't matter what the rental car's plate is doing all by itself.
 
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I assume you would remove the rental plates as soon as you turn the vehicle in . . .
Most toll systems have used allow you to put an "end" date and time for a plate you enter. Plus, you would be able to send the toll agency your rental agreement/receipt to show you did not have possession of the vehicle at the time of the toll if something was missed in the system.
 
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Plus, it sounds like it's not JUST the plate that gets the toll added to your account -- it's the transponder PLUS the plate number. If you have your transponder with you back home, it doesn't matter what the rental car's plate is doing all by itself.
Well, I think if they found a plate without the transponder they would charge the toll. My issue was that the the transponder in the vehicle was sending a signal that I was a "carpool" so therefore no toll was due even though I was in a toll lane. That was where having both the plate and the transponder in the system was required.
 
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SunPass allows you to enter in the dates and times that your transponder or the rental car's plate is linked to your account.
 
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I'm considering the hassle and expense of paying for my own transponder -- I can't imagine actually LIVING there and not owning a transponder!!!
I have transponders for California & EZ-Pass (Illinois). As I recall, the only thing I had to "pay" was prepaying a certain amount of tolls and otherwise the transponder was free. One visit where you have $20 (or whatever the toll buy in is) in tolls and you are ahead, especially since many tolls are lower with the transponder.
 
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In Florida you have to buy a transponder and add money to it.
It is worthwhile to check neighboring states to see if they have a free transponder option that will work in the state you are visiting. I see that North Carolina has a free transponder option that works in Florida, but the North Carolina website does not give any guidance to using the their system in a rental car so that might be a catch. In my case, I got an EZ-Pass transponder for the Northeast USA area and chose a state toll system that didn't charge for a transponder rather than the state I was actually visiting.
 
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Neil Maley

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Unfortunately my wife and I are snowbirding and didn’t have that option of stopping in another state, we just bought it here and use it all the time. If I have to worry about paying $20 for a transponder I shouldn’t be traveling. I was just stating it’s not free in every state and sometimes finding a way to save $20 costs more than the transponder itself.
 
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Unfortunately my wife and I are snowbirding and didn’t have that option of stopping in another state, we just bought it here and use it all the time. If I have to worry about paying $20 for a transponder I shouldn’t be traveling. I was just stating it’s not free in every state and sometimes finding a way to save $20 costs more than the transponder itself.
Yeah, sometimes not worth the trouble. But my point was looking in another state might give someone an option that works better for their situation. For instance, you can get by mail a transponder from North Carolina that works in all the EZPass states, plus NC, FL, and GA for $8. That might be a good option for some for a minimal investment.
 
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This is a “heads up” post about car rentals, toll roads, and personal transponders. Thankfully it had a good outcome but I wanted to share the story so others might be spared the inconvenience.

I live in Northern California and have my own “Fastrak” toll transponder. Recently I traveled to Southern California and rented a car from Alamo. I brought my personal “Fastrak” toll transponder with me and properly affixed it in the rental vehicle before departing the airport. During my visit I used a Southern California toll road where if you were a car pool traveling with the correct transponder (such as the one I was using) then there would be no toll.

A few weeks after my trip, I received a toll violation notice from Alamo along with the $20 administrative fee. A couple weeks later the toll road agency sent me the notice with the $25 fine for the $0.30 incorrectly assessed toll. A call to the toll road agency revealed that the transponder in the vehicle is ignored on the toll road if the license plate is not on the same account as the transponder.

Thankfully I was able to contact “Fastrak” and get the plate added to my account and after 48 hours the toll and related fine were removed. Also to Alamo’s credit they reversed the administrative fee after I requested it and showed proof the violation had been removed, though I would have understood if they did not since they did need to process the original toll violation notice.

So, the take-away is that if you are using your personal toll transponder on a rental vehicle, be sure to add the plate before you leave the rental lot. I also discovered that “Fastrak” does not allow you to “backdate” the starting time for the plate on your online account which makes it even more important that you add it before you drive off. (in the past they did let you enter prior dates).
I do the same here in Florida... so I add it to my account so i dont get charged, I have had my car serviced and I get a rental car...so its the first thing I do when I get home...