An excerpt from the op/ed:
ALTHOUGH THE TURNPIKE AUTHORITY HAS NOT YET DECIDED on a particular electronic tolling technology, it will probably require users to sign up for an account and obtain a transponder. This imposes several difficulties on low- income and minority drivers.
* First, most electronic tolling systems require either a credit card or bank account just to sign up. Many low-income and minority drivers do not have these. A 2002 study at UNC showed that 45 percent of low-income families in the state do not have credit cards and that 25 percent of all minority families in the nation do not have any bank accounts.
* Second, many toll road transponder accounts require a deposit or sign-up fee, a monthly service fee or automatic recharge fee.
* Third, electronic tolling discourages occasional or emergency use by requiring all potential users to go through the hassle of setting up an account and purchasing a transponder in advance. If a driver does not have a transponder and needs to use the toll road for an emergency, he would be subject to a very high fine.Will the toll road affect many low-income drivers? You bet. One such group would be the many low-income workers who service office buildings. At U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offices alone, there are more than 300 maintenance and custodial contractors who would fall into this category.
In New York, Pre-Paid EZPass Transponders can be purchased at local grocery stores, service plazas, or at various NY State Thruway offices. Called E-Z Pass On-The-Go, it is a $25 prepaid transponder that can be registered online or at a NY Thruway office or by mail. This EZPass on the go is also available in Pennsylvania. If the North Carolina Turnpike Authority follows this pre-paid multiple options to register and fund EZ-Pass On-The-Go, this will allow non-credit card holder or those without a checking account greater access to a transponder and the means to pay for it.
In New York, there is not a monthly service or recharge fee. In Pennsylvania, there is a yearly $3 fee and no recharge fee.
There is not a 'fine' to use the toll highway without a transponder, there is a higher toll-rate up to 3x the toll rate, but not a fine.
I do agree with Ms. McClintock that there should be a non-transponder cash toll booth option on the new highway. However, the NCTA sees this as a cost-savings move, and in other states like Texas, cashless toll highways are becoming more common.
Finally, Ms. McClintock closes with:
That body will decide in this year's short session whether to adopt the Turnpike Authority's request for $24 million a year "gap funding" that these toll roads won't cover. That is $24 million a year for 40 years that could be better spent on public transit improvements, such as light rail, recommended by the Special Transportation Advisory Committee. Legislators should do the right thing and put public transit ahead of toll roads.
Now in an area where Public Transportation is pretty much not utilized, and in an area where they can't get a common public transportation system and gameplan together, I'd argue that the $24 million per year over the next 40 years would be better spent improving, expanding, and building the transportation network we need (spread through highways and public options) vs. throwing everything in the boondoggle that can be public transportation.