Not having your I-PASS transponder in your car could cost more down the road.
The Illinois Toll Highway Authority is considering a plan to treat motorists with “an excessive amount” of video surveillance tolls (going in I-PASS lanes without a transponder) as cash customers.
Currently, toll cameras capture non-transponder passage through toll plazas. The non-transponder vehicles are checked against I-PASS records. If the plate is registered with the Toll Authority, the I-PASS linked to that license plate is charged the I-PASS rate (half of the cash rate).
Dan Rozek, spokesman for the Toll Authority, said the agency plans to roll out an incentive program next year to get Illinois residents to have transponders in every one of their vehicles.
“We want to encourage the use of I-PASSes. We want people to have them in their vehicle every time and part of that is to get one in every vehicle,” Rozek said. “We think the easiest way to get to that is not to have one transponder for multiple vehicles.”
Rozek said the Toll Authority Board will have to determine what an excessive amount is for instituting the cash rate for I-PASS holders not using their transponders and when the higher rate will go into effect.
“It is not clear yet,” Rozek said of when people will hit the excessive level. “It is not going to be missing one toll. Those people are not going to pay the cash rate.”
The Toll Authority spokesman said the campaign is an effort to keep the agency’s costs down. He said the Toll Authority’s cost are 8 cents per regular I-PASS transaction. When video images have to be checked against records, that cost nearly triples to 23 cents per transaction.
Rozek said video tolls are more costly for the agency because staff often has to review images of rusty or dirty license plates to make sure the plate is recorded correctly or weather can make it difficult to read a plate.
Agency estimates put the revenue that will be generated from new transponders from the marketing push at $15 million, but Rozek said this is not a plan to get more cash for the agency.
“This is not being done to try to sneak in more revenue,” Rozek said. “This is not raising a lot of revenue for us. We expect to collect $1.3 billion this year. This is more of an effort to reduce our expenses for oversight.”
Part of the campaign will be to make drivers aware that they do not have to create a separate account for each vehicle and that they can get another transponder linked to the same account for a refundable $10 charge, Rozek said.
The current system works for families who would use their one I-PASS for a rental car and still get the I-PASS rate on their regular vehicle. Individuals also give their one I-PASS to visiting relatives or friends and still get the I-PASS rate on their own car.
“That says there are multiple vehicles on the same transponder,” Rozek said.
Ben Silver, an attorney with the Citizen Advocacy Center, an Elmhurst-based agency promoting government transparency, said the CAC wants to be sure that people have the opportunity to talk about the proposal to charge the cash rate for excessive non-transponder transactions.
“We would not be happy if there is not the opportunity for meaningful public input,” Silver said. “Who knows how many people this would affect? I see cars stacked up at toll plazas to pay cash with the way things are now … They need to see what the citizens of the state want.”
Silver said public agencies need to gauge their residents’ sentiments before taking any action.
“I think if anything highlights the need for input it’s the (Cook County) soda tax,” Silver said. “We have seen the public outcry get pretty loud and have to wonder if a more robust discussion would have seen this coming.”
— Toll Authority goal: I-PASS in every car —-