In an excerpt from a published article in the Cecil Whig earlier this year, there were many benefits and much excitement talked about concerning the new cashless tolling implemented at the Hatem Bridge in Cecil County Maryland:
“The implementation of this next-generation tolling system for motorists traveling these major Baltimore and Harford-Cecil County routes will provide better fuel efficiency and reduced vehicle emissions, decreased congestion, increased safety and a safer work environment for employees, as well as first responders." However, there is usually more to the story.
Consider the families who reside in Cecil County and have out-of-state relatives. They could stop and pay the $8.00 cash toll. Instead they will be billed for 150% of the toll amount for failing to have an EZ-Pass if they don’t have one.
Let’s also consider the employees at the toll booth who are now unemployed or given another position. Perhaps they had some sense of pride in greeting thousands of people every day and were entrusted to make accurate currency exchanges for their state and are now replaced by a camera.
Another data point that was used to support the change was the fact that 93% of Hatem Bridge customers were already using EZ-Pass. What if we used that same concept at grocery or retail stores? 93% of our customers are using a debit or credit card so take away the ability to pay with cash and/or add a surcharge for cash payments. As a consumer, I would definitely have reservations about a change such as that.
All of the articles of advertisement and marquees along the roadway never told motorists that the cashless tolling system was also a set of speed cameras. While there is no fine or mandatory court appearance, two violations within six months would result in the EZ-Pass account being suspended.
At that point, commuters would be forced to pay the daily rate of 150% just like someone who does not have an EZ-Pass. It’s a genius idea: force everybody to get an EZ-Pass, penalize those who don’t, penalize visitors who use the bridge that don’t have an EZ-Pass, take away a couple of jobs, and don’t tell the public the system is also being used as a speed camera.
Beware of what you think are great technological advancements. Remember how everybody loved the internet? Now we have to deal with cyber bullying in our schools, innocent lives being exploited through social media, pornography, identity thieves and national security threats. Sometimes the “old way” doesn’t need changing.