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Automation May Make Toll Roads More Common

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the first-cameras-then-evil-toll-robots dept.

Transportation 585

bfwebster writes "Here in Denver, we have E-470, a toll section of the 470 beltway, that uses the usual transponder attached to your windshield. Fair enough, and I make use of it, particularly in driving to the airport. But they've just implemented new technology on E-470 that allows anyone to drive through the automated toll gates. If you don't have a transponder, it takes a photo of your license plate and sends a monthly bill to your house. As a result, the company that runs E-470 plans to close all human-staffed toll booths by mid-summer. And as an article in this morning's Rocky Mountain News notes, 'Such a system could be deployed on other roads, including some that motorists now use free. The result: a new source of money for highways and bridges badly in need of repair.' You can bet that legislators, mayors, and city councilpersons everywhere will see this as an even-better source of income than red-light cameras. You've been warned."

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Yeah, it would be cool in an ideal world... (5, Insightful)

joaommp (685612) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856539)

...where everyone can be trusted and no one uses false plates to
1) not having to pay
2) just playing a prank to someone.

It will happen the same as with the red light cameras. People will use false license plates or even no plates at all.

Re:Yeah, it would be cool in an ideal world... (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#26857015)

Not to mention using select foreign plates.

How do you think a Russian or Polish plate will be handled?

Calm down, this is a decade old (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26856561)

Ontario has been doing this for a decade on highest 407.

As used in Ireland (5, Informative)

hellsDisciple (889830) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856565)

This technology was very recently deployed in Ireland. There have been severe problems with it, including both the video and tag system simultaneously billing some customers. Funny thing is a lot of people forget there's a toll there at all any more - there used to be constant protests about the motorway in question.

Re:As used in Ireland (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26856591)

Toronto has been using it for while now. I have even heard of Americans getting bills after they've returned home to the states.

Re:As used in Ireland (5, Funny)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856975)

As cities get more and more needy due to the collapse of society as we now know it you can bet that they will find ways of getting your money. Naturally the threat will be the loss of a drivers' permit.
            There really is a solution. Get rid of your cars. That is the first lesson the homeless learn. The police use car related excuses to interview or harass them until they get rid of their cars. Wanted felons also understand that the only contact likely with the cops is if they drive.
              In essence you are like the rabbit. Beg to be tossed in the brier patch. Once you no longer fear loss of that driver's license you have won the battle. No more tolls, tickets or meaningless interviews will trouble you. You'll save a fortune and your health will improve from the pedaling. If you are married to a lazy spouse you can bet that pedaling will take care of that relationship as well. You will also learn to live close to work saving you a bundle of time every day.

Re:As used in Ireland (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26857055)

Around here "living close to work" means $4000/mo for a two-bedroom apartment. Good luck with that.

Old news... (3, Informative)

ArIck (203) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856567)

They have been doing this in Toronto with 407ETR for a long long time. Wonder why it just started in US?

Re:Old news... (4, Interesting)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856703)

It's been done in the states for at least a decade. Toll tags and such are commonplace in the metro areas, and now there's even talk of turning some of our interstates into toll roads.

I vehemently oppose the idea of toll roads on those "major artery" roads that connect our nation. It's one thing to add a toll road in an urban area where there are plenty of alternate paths, but placing an arbitrary price on traveling from one place to another is essentially restricting the right of travel. Our government should not be in the business of making it more expensive for me to go see my family 100 miles away.

Re:Old news... (3, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856765)

Various interstates have been toll roads for DECADES. This is nothing new. I-95 is a toll road through Delaware. I-76 across Pennsylvania and I-76/80 in Ohio. I-44 in Oklahoma and I-35 in Kansas.

The reason States do this is so they can maintain their own roads, rather than beg the U.S. for money.

Re:Old news... (1)

Majik Sheff (930627) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856929)

+1: Gets It

Re:Old news... (3, Informative)

GraZZ (9716) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856805)

I think the difference is that Toronto's 407 ETR has never had manned toll booths, but was originally built with support for number plate cameras and transponders.

It was the world's first highway to feature this system throughout [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Old news... (2, Insightful)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 5 years ago | (#26857031)

Our government should not be in the business of making it more expensive for me to go see my family 100 miles away.

But I assume that you agree they should make it /possible/ to see your family 100 miles away?

Re:Old news... (2, Interesting)

ygslash (893445) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856935)

In Israel this has always been the only method. There have never been any toll booths - you drive onto toll roads at full speed, just like any other highway. It's really, really convenient.

This is not an issue of the US being behind in technology and now catching up. It is an issue of the US being ahead in privacy, and now regressing.

In Israel, the company that runs the toll roads has full access to everyone's auto registration data. They also have special police powers to impound your car without trial if they think you owe them money.

I wish the US the best of luck.

Re:Old news... (1)

nmrtian (984245) | more than 5 years ago | (#26857007)

Everything starts in the US. They even think they invented the telephone. Plus ca change...

Re:Old news... (1)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 5 years ago | (#26857035)

SH-130 and SH-45 in Austin have had this for a few years, since just after they opened the toll roads. It's nothing new.

It's not likely existing roads will be retrofitted with tolls, though; a lot more people get up in arms when they have to start paying tolls on a road their tax dollars already paid to construct.

In Austin, there were a few places where limited-access-style intersections had already been built where they wanted the toll roads to go (such as SH-45 and Parmer, or Loop 1 and Parmer). In both places, they made "free" lanes that you can slip on and off the toll road, to avoid the light and the toll.

Why is this a bad thing? (4, Insightful)

Reverberant (303566) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856571)

The result: a new source of money for highways and bridges badly in need of repair.' You can bet that legislators, mayors, and city councilpersons everywhere will see this as an even-better source of income than red-light cameras. You've been warned."

Why is this a bad thing? If the users of the road have to pay a little extra to maintain the road they're using, I don't have problem with it. If the money is being poured into some politician's slush fund, sure that's a problem, but reasonable use fees are exactly what's called for her. It sure beats the "selective billing" process of red-light cameras.

Re:Why is this a bad thing? -Plate Cloning (4, Insightful)

microcars (708223) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856601)

What is to stop someone from making sets of fake plates with YOUR number on them and running through these toll roads or red lights?
already being done by kids here [thenewspaper.com]

Re:Why is this a bad thing? -Plate Cloning (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26856707)

This needs to be taken to the next level.
Monochrome LCD display; Instantly display any number you like with a few key stokes.

Bonus points if it runs linux.

Re:Why is this a bad thing? -Plate Cloning (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26856733)

This is a total non-issue.

First, making it stick will be practically impossible. If they have the plate, a car that matches your model (down to the year, since there will be differences), AND you have no alibi, then maybe a judge will make you pay.

Second, there are solutions to this, such as increasing the penalties for having fake plates on a car or photographing the driver to increase the likelihood counterfeiters are caught.

Third, toll booths already snap a picture of your car if you run the booth resulting in a bigger fine than just paying the toll. (So this method of payment will actually cost you LESS money if someone fakes your plate.)

Fourth, they would have to run through the toll many, many times to make you pay a significant amount, each time risking the consequences and each time providing you with an opportunity to present an alibi.

Re:Why is this a bad thing? -Plate Cloning (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26857011)

Fourth, they would have to run through the toll many, many times to make you pay a significant amount, each time risking the consequences and each time providing you with an opportunity to present an alibi.

It's not enough to present an alibi on your own whereabouts, you have to have an alibi on your car's whereabouts.

Otherwise, law enforcement will just say, sure you were at a friend's house, but you probably lent your car to someone....

Re:Why is this a bad thing? -Plate Cloning (1)

jipn4 (1367823) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856887)

What is to stop someone from making sets of fake plates with YOUR number on them and running through these toll roads or red lights?

Sooner or later, transponders will simply get integrated into license plates, and those will be a lot harder to clone.

Re:Why is this a bad thing? -Plate Cloning (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26857023)

Sooner or later, transponders will simply get integrated into license plates, and those will be a lot harder to clone.

This will encourage a new crime, called stealing someone else's legitimate license plate.

And replacing the victim's legitimate license plate with a legitimate-looking fake one, unbeknownst to the victim.

Re:Why is this a bad thing? -Plate Cloning (1)

Vahokif (1292866) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856999)

The law, I'd imagine.

Re:Why is this a bad thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26856655)

It is a bad thing, ea in Germany where you already pay o lot of taxes (yearly for your car's license renewal & on fuel) and trucks pay tolls (officially because the foreign trucks almost never buy fuel in Germany, because it is so expensive...). I do not see why I should pay even more for badly maintained roads and highways.

Re:Why is this a bad thing? (5, Informative)

japhering (564929) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856667)

The result: a new source of money for highways and bridges badly in need of repair.' You can bet that legislators, mayors, and city councilpersons everywhere will see this as an even-better source of income than red-light cameras. You've been warned."

Why is this a bad thing? If the users of the road have to pay a little extra to maintain the road they're using, I don't have problem with it. If the money is being poured into some politician's slush fund, sure that's a problem, but reasonable use fees are exactly what's called for her. It sure beats the "selective billing" process of red-light cameras.

Why is it a bad thing.. let me count the ways...

1) typically, (at least in TX), the photo billed to the home address of the registered owner of the car.. carries a $1 service fee, + a 20% penalty (for not having the prepaid transponder) + the toll.. so a 50 cent toll is now $1.60 + check and postage

2) Most of the money doesn't go back to up keep of the road .. it goes to profit for the corporation running the toll system

3) If you piss off some one.. they will simply take a digital picture of your license plate and run through all the toll plazas they can find. And you will have to fight each one individually..If the person has any brains.. he will do it in the same make/model/year as your vehicle and you will never convince the the administrative judge it is not you, unless you in your car happen to trip through a toll plaza within seconds of the miscreant

Don't laugh it is become a big problem in Europe where kids to get back a teachers.. take pic of the teachers license plate and then go speeding through as many speed traps as they can find. Each ticket running a few hundred Euros, unless you live in Finland where the ticket is a percentage of your income.

4) Quite a few of the companies running such systems are run by European companies that take all the profits back home rather than reinvesting in this country.

Re:Why is this a bad thing? (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856819)

Yeah, yeah. They said the same thing about EZpasses, but after ten years time the system is working very effectively from West Virginia all the way to Maine. And it's convenient.

The only point where I agree is point 2. The state should run the system directly, rather then hire a corporate monopoly to do the job. In Maryland they hired a private company to install an "express lane" and the tolls go to the company. I can't figure out why Maryland didn't just build the lane themselves as part of the MDDOT.

Just a little word (4, Insightful)

aepervius (535155) | more than 5 years ago | (#26857039)

4) Quite a few of the companies running such systems are run by European companies that take all the profits back home rather than reinvesting in this country.

While I agree with the rest of your post, why is point 4) a bad things ? Shall we now boycott all US company in Europe on the ground that they bring the money back in the US, instead of Europe ? Don't you think it is a rather dumb argument , especially knowing how mostly bad can be protectionism in some case ? Because sooner or later it falls down in a tit-for-tat fight.

Re:Why is this a bad thing? (4, Insightful)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856671)

Because I'm ALREADY PAYING for those roads. I pay gasoline taxes, I pay income tax. Take a look at all the stupid earmarks on the last 2 bailout/stimulus plans. I bet that would fix plenty of roads.

Re:Why is this a bad thing? (2, Insightful)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856967)

This point of view currently makes SOME sense.

Until alternative fuel cars become more common. Just because someone is driving an electric does not mean their car magically causes no wear on the highway. Would YOU want to pay more at the pump in terms of gas taxes to subsidize the roads for those not making use of oil?

That's where gas taxes fail, when not all vehicles are consuming gas. This doesn't excuse the administrators desires to double-dip with bonus information gathering, it simply means they should be making a one-or-the-other kind of system.

Re:Why is this a bad thing? (4, Insightful)

AlHunt (982887) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856681)

>>everywhere will see this as an even-better source of income than red-light cameras. You've been warned."

>Why is this a bad thing?

Because "out of sight, out of mind". They'll add a toll to a previuosly toll-free road, live with the brief protest until it dies down and Voila! Instant revenue stream. Next thing you know, the entire legislature will be skinny-dipping in it.

Once they start pulling invisible tolls, you can bet your last dollar (f you have any dollars left), that the now-collected gas taxes will be diverted elsewhere. Flordia legislators pulled this scam years ago with the lottery. They sold it on the basis that the revenues collected would go to education. What they failed to mention was that they'd reduce other monies going to education. Net result, schools in Florida benefited not at all, while the Florida legislature got more dollars to piss away however they wished.

Your government treats you like a giant urinal cake. And if they can do it "out of sight" it's only going to get worse.

Re:Why is this a bad thing? (5, Informative)

M1rth (790840) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856691)

If the money is being poured into some politician's slush fund, sure that's a problem, but reasonable use fees are exactly what's called for her.

It's always the slush fund. Houston, TX had a "toll road project" that was supposed to end the toll roads 10 years after the beltway was completed. How did they get around it? They put one little "spur" of 1/4 mile off the edge, claimed it was supposed to "eventually" be a mile long, and deliberately left it unfinished so that they can claim the project is "not completed."

Meanwhile the state funding that was SUPPOSED to be going to widening TX-290 in Houston? Oh yeah, that got embezzled to pay for lobbying efforts on the NAFTA superhighway project that nobody wanted.

Point being: it's always the slush fund that the toll road money goes to.

The other thing we have in Houston now? They did away with the posted signage telling you how much the toll is. If you drive round the beltway and you have an "EZPass", you have absolutely no idea how much money you were charged until you get your monthly statement. There are no signs saying what the toll is to get on, No early-warning with "free exits" right before each big pay-plaza, and the only way you're going to find out the toll price is by going through the pay booth and asking the attendant.

And of course there are certain areas (Westpark Tollway) that you're ONLY allowed onto if you have an EZPass. I wound up buying an EZPass just as a defensive measure because of the number of times cops have been caught forcing people over into the exit-only lane onto that toll road since it was built.

Go through those gates without a transponder? Massive fine - and there's no appeal process, no way to get before a judge to say "Here's the situation, I couldn't safely get out of the lane, I got to the first available exit but they've put a toll reader before that exit." It's all a revenue scam, nothing more.

Re:Why is this a bad thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26856809)

I'd feel sorry for you, but I lost all compassion from Texans during the last 8 years for some reason.

My wife is from Texas, so whenever she asks for a cup of coffee, I say, "BUSH!!!!"

I'm from Illinois, so I see this pattern continuing for another 4 more years.

Really? (2, Insightful)

SpiceWare (3438) | more than 5 years ago | (#26857057)

I didn't realize that Texas had the ability to elect the President of the US all by itself.

Re:Why is this a bad thing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26856709)

You already pay for the road through gas taxes. This would be fine if the taxes on gasoline were abolished. This merely punishes people for living in particular areas.

The problem is... (4, Insightful)

gillbates (106458) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856747)

That I already pay taxes to maintain the roads. I pay a federal tax on gasoline, which is supposed to be used to maintain the interstate highway system.

I find it kind of unsettling that after taking my tax dollars to build and maintain their highways, certain states believe they can now charge an extra fee simply because the road passes through their state. If they can send me a bill for driving on a highway built with my tax dollars, perhaps I should be allowed to send them an invoice for reimbursement of the fuel taxes I paid while in their state.

The idea behind having federal funding of roads is that you create a system of roads by which everyone is allowed to travel, free of charge. If individual states want to get into the toll-road business, we're going to end up like we were in the 30's and 40's, where there was no consistency in road quality and signage from one state to the next.

Re:The problem is... (4, Insightful)

David Greene (463) | more than 5 years ago | (#26857047)

hat I already pay taxes to maintain the roads. I pay a federal tax on gasoline, which is supposed to be used to maintain the interstate highway system.

Except the federal gas tax has lost buying power over the decades as the tax has not kept pace with the cost of maintaining highways. The federal highway trust fund is bankrupt. I'd have more sympathy for your position if you were out advocating that the federal gas tax be raised to cover the full cost of driving (and it's not just road maintenance).

Re:Why is this a bad thing? (4, Insightful)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856831)

Why is this a bad thing?

Oh, I am a huge fan of road pricing, insofar it means making the people who use the road pay for it.

There are two arguments against this:
1) Privacy. If they implement this on all roads, the government or whomever owns the road has a nice log of where you've driven, day to day. Has your government ever given any indication that they are trustworthy enough to gain this information?

2) As others have pointed out: this offers even better ways to milk motorists. And don't think people will protest too much if they gradually raise prices, that's what they've done over here. Motorists in the Netherlands already bring in 3 times the yearly road and public transport expenditure (for example: VAT + a special tax on new cars add as much as 66% to the sticker price); the rest is blown on other useless stuff. Once this system is in place, you can bet that prices will go up, a few points over inflation, every single year.

Oh, and they get a free 100% accurate speed trap out of this. They've implemented such a system for just that reason around a few of our cities. At least that old system is anonymous (it turns the picture of your license plate into a "signature", which is compared against the signatures read at the end of the stretch of road being monitored. Only if a speeding violation is detected will it perform an OCR on the plate and send you the ticket. But for road pricing they need proof that you've used the road at the time you are billed for).

Re:Why is this a bad thing? (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856989)

The users of the road are already paying for it in the form of very high state and federal taxes on gasoline.

rental cars? (2, Interesting)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856577)

seriously.. if I rent a car- I'm going to be back billed later by the agency?

yeah- that's not an issue at all...

Re:rental cars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26856825)

seriously.. if I rent a car- I'm going to be back billed later by the agency?

yeah- that's not an issue at all...

Umm... yes? Doesn't sound very complicated to me at all. If this technology takes root, you can pretty much count on the rental company figuring out a way to charge you for the tolls.

Re:rental cars? (3, Interesting)

xstonedogx (814876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856835)

If you've rented a car, then it's very obviously not an issue for you. You're already agreeing to plead guilty to any traffic ticket the car receives while it is rented to you (e.g., red light camera tickets) and have it charged to your credit card.

Re:rental cars? (1)

Ambiguous Coward (205751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856997)

traffic ticket != usage toll

Also, what do you want to bet the rental agency will kindly add their own "toll processing fee?" Say you racked up $10 of tolls while driving their car. Would you be at all surprised if they added a 5-10% processing fee to back-charge you once they get the bill?

On top of all that, is the monthly bill itemized? I'm guessing not, since that would make it easier to dispute items. And if it's not, how can the rental agency possibly differentiate between you accruing a fee and the next person who rents that car accruing a fee? Most people don't rent cars for an entire month, and even if they did, it almost certainly wouldn't coincide with the billing cycle.

And even if the bill is itemized, do you really think the rental agency is capable of reliably sorting through a bill with thousands (or more) charges and correctly assigning them to the appropriate customer?

This is just one teeny-tiny aspect of the whole thing. It seems pretty clear that for any system like this to work in a reasonable manner on a large scale it would require such a perfect storm of driver-cooperation, implementation details, and government/corporation integration that it just can't happen.

On the other hand, take out that pesky keyword "reasonable," and sure, they can probably cobble together something that works often enough that the majority of the populace won't feel compelled to get up in arms. Mild discontentment generally isn't enough to cause change, so as long as they can jerk us around without going over that line, they'll do it.

Administrative Fee. (2, Insightful)

number17 (952777) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856589)

"People still aren't comfortable with tolling,"

People are uncomfortable because of the unknown. Each town may have a different company managing the roads with different costs and fees associated. As a tourist am I hope I don't get 50 different bills in the mail for a nice road trip. Each bill with a $5 administrative fee.

the ability to charge tolls without prepaid accounts or coins.

Hopefully there will still be one lane open for coin/cash transactions.

Phew. (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856597)

Makes me glad I only put the required registration tags on my car, and keep my license "plate" in my wallet. Still, if I had mounted it, That's one hell of a camera if it can read that tiny text from a safe distance.

First Canadian! (2, Interesting)

scamper_22 (1073470) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856603)

First Canadian to post we have had this in Ontario for years now... called the 407.

It's not a bad technology. However here, there is a crazy charge for the photo portion that basically makes it impractical not to have a transponder. Each time you don't have a transponder and get photoed... the charge is like 6 dollars or something. A monthly transponder is 2 dollars. So I just keep a transponder even though I don't use regularly.

The only advice I would give is to make sure the 'toll' period is reasonable. In the 90s recessions, our government signed the highway away to a private company for a 99 year lease. Most other places in the world, it is common to see 10-20 year lease.

Of course isn't this what the gas tax supposed to be for :) Oh the joys of non-dedicated government taxation.

Re:First Canadian! (1, Funny)

scamper_22 (1073470) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856621)

dammit... not the one.
No no not the one.
Arlck is the one who was.
I am the one who is to be.

No body listens to scamper. Poor scamper.

E-Zpass has been out since 1993 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26856609)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ez_pass

same system, 1993

...Gas Tax? (5, Insightful)

RagingFuryBlack (956453) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856617)

Isn't the purpose of the gasoline tax in the United States to account for the wear an tear that your vehicle causes to the roads? If we start implementing tolling on nearly every major highway, we should start to see a reduction or removal of the gasoline tax. No way in hell should we be paying for something twice.

Re:...Gas Tax? (2, Insightful)

japhering (564929) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856729)

Isn't the purpose of the gasoline tax in the United States to account for the wear an tear that your vehicle causes to the roads? If we start implementing tolling on nearly every major highway, we should start to see a reduction or removal of the gasoline tax. No way in hell should we be paying for something twice.

Here in TX we are paying for some roadways 3 times..first with the gas taxes,, then with revenue from sales taxes and now the state is turning them into toll roads..

Its good for the environment (4, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856777)

Figure that will be one way to sell it. Hello carbon tax.

Yes it is not reasonable to you or me, however there are many who would like nothing more to "punish" people who drive cars, after all only the rich or those who don't care if they are destroying the planet will drive cars. Honestly this is how it will come to pass. We have toll roads that were supposed to expire (ga400) when they paid off, guess what, ain't happened and won't ever happen.

Once a government gets a tax in it will take a change of government to remove it. I seriously doubt it will be republican or democrats that will help us.

Re:...Gas Tax? (2, Insightful)

jipn4 (1367823) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856857)

Isn't the purpose of the gasoline tax in the United States to account for the wear an tear that your vehicle causes to the roads?

Yeah, and then the Palins of this world redirect your tax dollars from California or Massachusetts to build roads and bridges to nowhere in their states.

If we start implementing tolling on nearly every major highway, we should start to see a reduction or removal of the gasoline tax.

The gasoline tax doesn't come close to covering the costs the automobile imposes on the nation. Costs resulting from driving aren't just maintaining the roads, they include the pollution, medical care, bad urban planning, ensuring the availability of oil, etc.

Driving right now are largely subsidized by income tax. We have this system because it works for a few powerful interests, and that's also the reason why other modes of transportation have such a hard time establishing themselves.

That's too bad (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856631)

the company that runs E-470 plans to close all human-staffed toll booths by mid-summer

Toll-booth operators taste just like veal.

Don't assume Red Light Cameras are gone yet... (4, Interesting)

CultureFreedom (1106293) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856641)

As one other Canadian has noted in this thread, this technology has been deployed around the Toronto area for a while and works quite effectively. However, it's not correct for the author to say that Red Light Cameras are going anywhere soon; Toronto is already pushing to use this system instead. Some basic math can tell you that a driver who makes it between an on-ramp and an off-ramp in less than the maximum legal time it should take to travel that distance is speeding - the Ontario Parliament is already taking steps to use this to bill speeders instead of red light cameras because of the significantly higher volume on the highways as well as the dual usage of billing people for the toll road. It's a great system for raising funds for the repair bill of a road that's used often, but it will start to replace frequently sympathetic traffic cops with a trial-less ticket mailed to your door sooner than you think.

Re:Don't assume Red Light Cameras are gone yet... (1)

dargaud (518470) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856913)

So what about people who drive with false tags ? Is there some kind of active alert or does it go to /dev/null ? I ask because it's probably a lot more common than you think: my father got in a fender bender; the guy gave him all the necessary info (ID, address, car registration, licence, insurance...), well it turns out everything was false ! Apparently you can purchase the whole package of false documents (including the car tags) if you go to the right places on the 'net.

Sydney are all automated (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26856643)

Almost every toll booth in australia is automated. Just recently, the Sydney harbor bridge become completely automated. The biggest problem is that when you don't have an "E-Tag" on your car, the bill gets sent to your house with a $10 or more Administration Fee... So your $3 toll becomes $13 everytime you drive through

This must be part of the new stimulus package.... (1)

cherokee158 (701472) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856645)

Gee, it's nice to see the government is getting busy creating new jobs.

Re:This must be part of the new stimulus package.. (1)

Compholio (770966) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856679)

You obviously don't live in capitalist america, it's not about jobs - it's about market efficiency.

better than illlegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26856649)

At least it's not nefarious and illegal like red-light cameras. If enough people get annoyed with it, they can petition to have them removed or banned... unlike moving violations, which you can't hold a referendum on.

Toll roads make sense, though. (1, Insightful)

Dzimas (547818) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856663)

I rarely drive. Why should I subsidize the people who drive 100 miles a day to commute into the city from their faux-rural home? Toll roads are a great way to pass the cost along to those who benefit from the service. In fact, instead of a blanket tax, it makes sense to bill people for their annyal road use (assuming a perfect world with tamper-proof odometers, of course). It would encourage people to drive less and drive home the true cost of public infrastructure. We live in a strange political bubble where universal medicare is viewed as dangerously "socialist" (somehow invoking fears of dictators waving red flags), whereas multi-billion dollar tax funded road networks are seen as a panacea. Bloody odd.

Re:Toll roads make sense, though. (1)

taustin (171655) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856751)

I rarely drive. Why should I subsidize the people who drive 100 miles a day to commute into the city from their faux-rural home?

You seem to believe you will somehow pay less in taxes if this happens. Why, I have no idea. If anything, your taxes will go up to pay for the postage to send out the bills, so that the revenue from the tolls can be maximized.

Plus, why would you think, for one second, that the money from these tolls would be used to pay for road improvements anyway? They say they will, but they always do until the money's in the bank.

Re:Toll roads make sense, though. (1)

Dzimas (547818) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856907)

You seem to believe you will somehow pay less in taxes if this happens. Why, I have no idea. If anything, your taxes will go up to pay for the postage to send out the bills, so that the revenue from the tolls can be maximized.

I labor under the daft illusion that the government should rationalize taxation. That is, road taxes should pay for roads while warmongering taxes should foot the bill for bullets. You should stop placidly accepting your government's habit of randomly redistributing your taxes willy-nilly.

Re:Toll roads make sense, though. (1)

jipn4 (1367823) | more than 5 years ago | (#26857029)

You seem to believe you will somehow pay less in taxes if this happens.

Doesn't seem "daft" to me.

If anything, your taxes will go up to pay for the postage to send out the bills, so that the revenue from the tolls can be maximized.

Taxes don't pay for the postage on the bills, the people receiving the bills do--it gets included in the toll.

Plus, why would you think, for one second, that the money from these tolls would be used to pay for road improvements anyway?

Because if the road or bridge becomes too badly damaged, the income from that road or bridge goes away. Hence, the people (city, company, state, whatever) who charge the tolls have a natural interest in charging enough to maintain the infrastructure, but not charge so much that people stop using it.

That's a big improvement over the current system, where the government taxes whatever it wants, uses the money to fight useless wars, and then lets the bridges and roads go to hell.

Re:Toll roads make sense, though. (1)

cyn1c77 (928549) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856779)

I rarely drive. Why should I subsidize the people who drive 100 miles a day to commute into the city from their faux-rural home?

Because they subsidize your public transit and the roads you drive on. Duh.

Re:Toll roads make sense, though. (1)

Dzimas (547818) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856947)

*Because they subsidize your public transit and the roads you drive on. Duh.*

Um, I pay for the privilege of riding the train. It works exactly like a toll highway, in fact. Those who use it, pay for it. Now what was your point?

Re:Toll roads make sense, though. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26856853)

I don't have any children. Why should I subsidize the education of other peoples children with my property taxes?

Re:Toll roads make sense, though. (1)

dargaud (518470) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856881)

it makes sense to bill people for their annyal road use

Which is exactly what you do by taxing gas.

Re:Toll roads make sense, though. (1)

crtreece (59298) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856957)

Having people who use more of a resource pay more to use it? Brilliant! Maybe the tax could be built into the price of the fuel purchased by the users.

Re:Toll roads make sense, though. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26856995)

Why should you subsidize public education? You don't have any kids, and you haven't been using the system since you graduated high school when you were 18.

Never mind that that would leave 20% of the population uneducated and unemployable (child labor laws!). And in 20 years, who's going to be around to perform that life-saving heart surgery for you? The home-schooled brat who never saw any point in going on to higher learning? Or the one who's worked at McDonald's his whole life flipping burgers?

Why should you subsidize the fire department? After all, you can go your entire life without ever needing them. Make the people who actually use those services pick up the tab.

Never mind that fires like to spread from building to building. And throwing big bills onto people who've just watched their property go up in flames is not an effective way to encourage fast redevelopment.

Why should you subsidize healthcare, when after all, you're in the prime of your life and fit as a fiddle? Make all those sick people pay for their own bills. Never mind that avoiding care, as the uninsured do, makes all of society more vulnerable to disease. Never mind that all insurance works by subsidization (with the caveat that every treatment denied is profit in the bank for the insurer).

I mean, who really wants to be able to just pick up the phone, call 911, and know that trained professionals are on their way to take care of your life-threatening situation? Wouldn't you much rather have a couple thousand back in your pocket, and be left to fend for yourself?

Been in place for ages (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856689)

This is old tech. It's been in place in Toronto, Ontario for ages and is used for the express highway. You can take the normal highway, or you can rent a transceiver and use the express. If you don't have a transceiver, cameras will snap your license plate and you will be billed at a higher rate.

Even more frightening German Highway Toll System (1)

prefec2 (875483) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856695)

I've read the above article and then the German highway toll system come in my mind. It works in a similar way. However, it is only used for trucks right now, but the system can do more. First, all trucks need a special computer unit built-in for booking. However, because not all trucks have such system and of course to check if everything was booked in the right way, they installed cameras on mostly every on and off ramp. These cameras read license plates and detect if the vehicle is really a truck or a normal car. They also detect if the truck has one or more trailers, because more trailer cost you more money. The company running the toll system, also sells tracking information to companies and they can detect traffic jams. Theoretical they could also offer traffic jam prediction, but I am not sure if this would be legal. Also it is possible to calculate the average speed of vehicles. And I guess it is only a question of time that the state realizes this feature and uses it instead of speed traps. Also, the German minister of the interior, Mr. Schaeuble, (he reminds me sometimes of Dr. Strangelove) already thought about using the tracking data of this highway system to track people movements to capture terrorists of course. Luckily this idea was dismissed of other ministers so no total road observation right now.

ALL roads are toll roads (4, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856711)

All roads in the U.S. and Canada are toll roads. You pay the toll at the gasoline pump through the ~70 cent per gallon tax. As it should be. If you're going to make use of government-paved roads, it makes sense to pay for that usage. Places with "extra" tolls are typically high-expense areas like tunnels & bridges where the gasoline toll is not enough to cover costs.

Alternatively you could get a horse-and-buggy and pay nothing, like my Amish neighbors do. ;-)

Re:ALL roads are toll roads (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26856841)

70 cents? Citation please.

If you're in the US, you're paying at most 35 cents.

http://www.gaspricewatch.com/usgastaxes.asp

If you're in Canada, you're paying more like $1.18 (2005) or 90 cents American? Not sure what the source means, and why you would lump US and Canada together is ridiculous anyway.

http://www.petro-canada.ca/en/media/296.aspx

Your point is made, and is a good one. Gas taxes are the best way to do this.

RFID tags on License plates (1)

nakkal (1012979) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856713)

Wont having RFID tags on the license plates make it much easier? It could complement photographing of license plates.

It's not a bad idea. (1)

mongoose(!no) (719125) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856715)

I have an EZPass (the east coast automated tag thing on my car). I go to school in Washington, DC, and I live in South Jersey. When I drive, I don't notice the total cost of the tolls, and I think it's because of tag. I asked a friend to pick me up at a train station near the end of the MARC (Maryland's train system) line, and I ended up costing him $13 that he paid out of his wallet, and that's just on the way back from the train. I paid him back, but I didn't realize how many tolls there are on I95.

As far as the idea of turning roads into toll systems, I'd prefer the tags. They're a bit more anonymous than a license plate, which could easily be traced by DMV records. I know many people who own one or two tags and just put it in whatever car they're taking for a long trip. My big worry is the day that the politicians realize you can use these things to track how fast people are driving by comparing the time into the system to the time out with the distance driven. I did read an interesting article the other day about an economist proposing we solve our traffic congestion and road funding problems by implementing a dynamic tolls system on all the major highways. A busy road would have a higher toll than a less crowded road, encouraging people to take the cheaper route, and at the same time, providing funds for the highway system. Usually in my travels between DC and home, or between home and my friends in Delaware, I take either 295, a bit longer of a drive, but less crowded, or the New Jersey Turnpike, which has an exit that is a few miles closer to home, which is more direct but seems to be more crowded when I drive it. With some well placed electronic signs, I could tell which route will have more traffic, and the state would make money on both routes, not just the turnpike.

not the solution (2, Informative)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856739)

Making every single person slow down and just about stop on the highway is completely idiotic. Here's how Wisconsin does it, since toll boths are illegal here. We charge an extra high tax on the gasoline that's sold everywhere in the state. So there you go, the more you use the roads, the more you pay for them to be repaired. And compared to other states, we have really nice, well upkept roads so I guess it works, doesn't it?

Re:not the solution (1)

rally2xs (1093023) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856829)

"We charge an extra high tax on the gasoline..." Think electric cars. About 10 years and that's probably all there will be on the market.

Re:not the solution (1)

Ritchie70 (860516) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856873)

So you never come down to Illinois, eh?

We've got a bunch of toll roads around the Chicago area, and most of them have made it to "open road tolling" which means that, if you have an IPass, you just keep driving under the detectors, nobody slows down.

If you don't have the IPass, you have to take something that almost looks like an exit ramp and either throw some coins in a machine or give money to an actual human.

The IPass toll rate is about half of the cash rate, I think.

This is the fairest way to fund roads (1)

landryraccoon (994758) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856745)

I completely support this technology. Right now, you pay for roads whether you drive on them or not, through your taxes. If the every road could be made a toll road, then the people who drove on the roads would pay for them, and people who take public transportation or choose not to own a car wouldn't pay. Even if you drive a lot, there are possible advantages. The road operator has an incentive to keep the roadway in good condition and clear of congestion, since they maximize tolls when the roads are free flowing and accident clear. Also, there would be fewer cars on the road since there's a disincentive to take unnecessary trips - you don't want to pay the toll. So your commute time would almost certainly go down in this scenario, and I imagine that if you are spending an hour in the car to get to work now, and that drops to 45 minutes, the time saved would be worth more than the toll. Overall, automated tolls would result in LESS driving and LESS congestion, which seems like a good thing.

Re:This is the fairest way to fund roads (1)

swilver (617741) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856861)

Yes, let's install thousand upon thousands of camera's for a toll system for every road!

Or perhaps we could just use tax on fuel...

Re:This is the fairest way to fund roads (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26856905)

So tolls lead to better condition roadways, less congestion and faster commutes? Let's charge $1000 per mile driven then.

Re:This is the fairest way to fund roads (2, Insightful)

realilskater (76030) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856917)

Everybody should be paying for roads whether they are driving or not. If you rely on public transportation to get around you are still using the road. Even if you never leave your house or building you are using the road system. All of the goods you purchase are traveling by road.

Some smaller towns are running into the problems of decreased fuel tax revenue as more people buy electric or high fuel efficiency vehicles. A low percentage tax that everybody pays should pay for roads.

Re:This is the fairest way to fund roads (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26857025)

If you buy bread, for instance, the shipping company responsible for getting the bread to your table has to pay the tolls. The cost of bread will go up. You have already paid the "tax" on the road usage of the shipping company.

If tolls go up, if gas taxes go up, many goods also go up in price.

Already in Toronto -- really bad for travellers (2, Interesting)

mikewas (119762) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856767)

I ran into this system in Toronto a few years ago.

There's no way to pay manually. Sections that are toll aren't well marked. Cost isn't clearly defined and changes as a function of time and/or traffic density. So when turning in the rental car there's no way to determine the charges for tolls.

Months after the trip I got a bill from the car rental agency: cost of tolls + several taxes + surcharge by the car rental agency + a billing fee.

Can you tell I'm not a fan of this technology?! Car rental agency added costs were more than twice the cost of tolls.

Re:Already in Toronto -- really bad for travellers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26856979)

That's odd. There's only one toll road in Ontario, and it's a 6-lane highway that's clearly marked as being an Electronic Toll Road.

The entire thing is a toll road, there aren't "sections that are toll".

The tolls are a rip-off, of course, but it's not hard to look avoid a highway, really, especially when there are two parallel highways.

Watch out for the non-transponder surcharge fee (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26856769)

I went through one of these in Texas awhile back.

The toll was something like 50 cents.

They tacked on a dollar for a mailing fee because I didn't have a transponder. This is on top of charging more per mile if you don't use the transponder.

I called and they waived the fee as a courtesy but it was still a waste of my time. I should've taken the free road.

Commonplace? You Bet (2, Insightful)

rally2xs (1093023) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856771)

Eventually, it will start at the end of your driveway, and continue to wherever you're going. Too many tolls now. I finally canned the idea of going to Atlantic City this weekend because... not the price of the motels... and not the price of what I might lose at poker... but because of about $38 or so, if I remember right, for the tolls to get there. Bridges, tunnels, turnpikes - it all adds up. Screw it. Stay here and chop some weeds, go shopping, haul stuff that's taking up too much room to the Goodwill store.

Re:Commonplace? You Bet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26856983)

I just got back from Atlantic city and the last time I went, I didn't have EZPass and I got so annoyed at stopping EVERY 5-10 MINUTES to pay another freakin' 50 cent toll!!!! This time I had EZPass and although I didn't usually have to stop, each toll plaza I thought - can't they just charge me $10 at the start and be done with it? What is the percentage of "take" NJ ends up with after paying for all the electronics, toll booths (they still have TONS of manned booths), salaries, benefits, overtime, etc that they have to pay? I'll bet it's less than 50% of what they bring in? NJ toll system is the most pathetic I've ever seen.

BTW-I have absolutely no idea how much the tolls cost me since I won't see the bill until next month. I guess this is part of their plan!

sounds good to me (1)

jipn4 (1367823) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856797)

Instead of having politicians fight over which bridge to nowhere to build from tax dollars collected thousands of miles away, infrastructure gets paid for by the people who actually use it.

Sounds good to me. I hope it gets as widely deployed as possible.

London Congestion Zone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26856811)

That's exactly what's been done in London for nearly 6 years - the congestion charge for driving through London is completely automated - no toll gates, no transponders or RFID, just camera based license plate scanning. I expect you'll be seeing this everywhere - a hell of a lot easier than having to carry cash to pay tolls.

http://www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/congestioncharging/6718.aspx
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_congestion_charge

Austin's Bad Example (2, Informative)

lenwood (930461) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856839)

I live in Austin. We recently got some new toll roads. The money for them was already allocated, but city counsel approved the decision to make them toll roads anyway. Then I learned that the company that has the maintenance/operating contract, Cintra, is a Spanish company. So we're not only paying for these roads twice, the profit leaves Texas. I'm boycotting the new toll roads, I hope the choke on them. I'm not opposed to toll roads in general. I recognize that the money for road maintenance needs to come from somewhere, but Austin is an example of the worst way to go about it.

Re:Austin's Bad Example (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26856921)

As a fellow Austinite, I cannot agree more. One of the most corrupt actions I've seen in a long time. Notice how poorly signed the tollways are? Noticed how alternate routes are not being maintained? TexDOT is deeply corrupt. Standard red state bullshit.

Back to the middle age (4, Insightful)

dargaud (518470) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856863)

In the middle age every road or bridge had a toll, and it is considered by many historians the one thing the kept their economy in the gutters. It was just too expensive to ship anything anywhere ! Think that France had extensive forests, but Louis XIV couldn't carry its wood from the center to the shore at affordable prices because of all the tolls. So the wood used in warship construction was purchased in Spain ! Well, the flip side of the coin is that France still has plenty of forest while Spain is mostly a desert since that time. The main roman advance is the construction of roads. Not the construction of tolls ! It kept the empire in one piece for half a millennium.

Re:Back to the middle age (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26857043)

I hear overuse of the exclamation point was also responsible for their downfall!

Re:Back to the middle age (1)

hibiki_r (649814) | more than 5 years ago | (#26857053)

There aren't anywhere as many forests in Spain as there used to be in 1600, but mostly a desert? you've got to be kidding! There's a desert near Almeria, but it doesn't account for even close to 10% of the land area. If that's enough for you to qualify the country as a desert, I bet you'd claim that Africa, Asia and North America are mostly deserts too!

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26856897)

Just make sure you take your plates when buying a new car.

What if someone takes your plates during the night and ran through several toll booth before you notice your plates gone.

There was an article out of Houston, TX where someone was running through the toll booths for 6 months and never paid. The bill was sent an elderly women in Austin,TX. The elderly woman sold the car with the plates and someone else bought the car with the plates. Some how it was never got updated in the system and took months to get it corrected.

Just one example.

So, I foresee problems.

Why can't all ETC systems link up with ez-pass? so (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856959)

Why can't all ETC systems link up with ez-pass? so you don't have to have 2-3 transponders and accounts so you don't have to pay the higher non transponder rate?

I can use my I-pass on all EZ-pass systems and get the lower transponder rates so Why Must I also get a sun-pass, TxTAGnetwork, C-Pass, Cruise card, EXpressToll, Fastrak, Good To Go!, K-Tag, MnPass, PalmettoPass, Pikepass, and Tolltag to use all toll systems in the us.

One item being discussed (1)

kilodelta (843627) | more than 5 years ago | (#26856973)

Is tolls at the RI/MA borders of I-95 and I-195. This isn't going to fly since a good chunk of the RI population drives back and forth on those highways into MA every day for work. And I'd be likely to replace my license plates with a LED display that changes the plate numbers on the fly. Wouldn't that be fun.

Tolls are great (1)

trickyD1ck (1313117) | more than 5 years ago | (#26857045)

Tolls are better than gasoline taxes since you can have flexible pricing for road usage depending on the time of the day or other criteria. Making people pay more in the rush hours will reduce congestion dramatically and as economics tells us will ensure that the roads are employed in the most efficient way. One can also argue that current system is unfair since people who don't use highways or some other expensive roads are paying for those who do. So why not reduce (abolish?) gasoline taxes in favor of tolls? These stories with kids printing license plates seem to be an extremely rare exception, moreover as far as I know, here in Germany they get your face visible on the photo as otherwise you could argue you rented your car to your neighbour who broke the speed limit so he should pay.
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