Turnpike tolls spike for drivers without E-ZPass

July 29, 2020 Cranberry Local News

Thirteen is an unlucky number — at least for Pennsylvania Turnpike drivers.

In the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission's 13th consecutive annual rate increase, drivers will pay at least 6 percent more to drive on the thoroughfare. The bills will increase by more than 50 percent for non-E-ZPass drivers, although with an additional charge added to Toll-by-Plate customers. That additional charge averages 45 percent on top of the 2020 cash rate.

According to the commission, that increases the most common toll for a car from $1.50 to $1.60 using an E-ZPass, or from $2.50 to $3.90 without. An invoice sent to customers who used the Toll-by-Plate mechanism will present to them the option to open an E-ZPass account and pay the significantly lower rate.

The toll increases will take effect in January.

The move to a permanent Toll-by-Plate program was completed in early June, when the commission laid off about 500 employees who were engaged in fare collection. The commission framed it as a way to reduce expenses given significantly reduced revenue as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, without fare collectors, the commission implemented the higher fares for non-E-ZPass customers because of the “higher costs” associated with processing and collecting the Toll-by-Plate invoices, according to a statement by Mark Compton, Turnpike CEO.

“The new TOLL BY PLATE rate reflects the higher costs the commission incurs to process the toll and collect payment — a pricing approach used by tolling agencies across the nation to cover the costs of administering AET (All-Electronic Tolling) systems,” he said in the statement. “This balanced approach allows us to maintain a lower rate for those choosing a payment method that is less costly to manage, while those who choose a pricier payment option absorb those costs.”

The Turnpike Commission has increased its rates each year since 2009 as a result of state laws that mandate the commission remit $450 million annually to PennDOT to help fund public transit. Those payments will be reduced to $50 million in 2022, and it is unclear if annual rate increases will continue at that time.