With E-ZPass You're on Your Way!
So I did it, I broke down and got an E-ZPass yesterday. Considering that I'm a pretty regular traveler along the New Jersey turnpike, I guess it was only a matter of time. So what is an E-ZPass?
An E-ZPass customer gets a little plastic box to be mounted on the windshield of their car. As of current writing, the size and shape is about equivalent to a deck of cards. After that, it is used as a quick way to go through toll gates on certain tollways. Instead of waiting in a long line of cars (whose drivers seem to remember that they need to pull out their cash only right at the toll attendant), an E-ZPass customer is able to simply drive slowly through a designated E-ZPass lane and have their account automatically debited. According to their website, it works using 'an antenna' to receive the signal from the E-ZPass box; I prefer to think that a troll sitting inside of the gate mechanism looks out through a periscope and makes sure my license plate matches up in a database.
So how does one get one? In my opinion, the best way to get one is to come across an E-ZPass vending machine in a rest stop. As I've only seen one such vending machine in my many travels on the turnpike, one can also receive them by going to an E-ZPass service center, or by faxing an application form in and getting one by mail. If it gets empty or near empty, the E-ZPass must be replenished either by check, credit card, or cash. The credit card payment can be done automatically, but the checks or cash must be mailed in.
The traffic lights or other display at the toll gates indicate your E-ZPass status. If the light is green, or the display indicates that you have paid, you are good to go. If the light is yellow, or the display indicates that your account is running low, you should put more money into your E-ZPass account as soon as you can to ensure continued service. If the light is red, or the display indicates that your toll wasn't paid, you need to pay the toll if you can there, or let the good people at E-ZPass know. You can use the E-ZPass on toll roads in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and Illinois.
Why is this cool? For one thing, each stop at a tollway normally might take you up to a half hour in awful traffic. As the E-ZPass system doesn't require stopping, going through the E-ZPass lane is far more quick. Another advantage is conveyed in the form of discounts at certain toll gates. Also, with an automatically replenishing account, you never really need to think about putting more money into the account.
TenMinJoe and princess loulou remind me that my Americentric worldview is a bit limiting. The size comparison was previously using 'an American garage opener.' It has been changed. Thanks!
rootbeer277 says re E-ZPass : Illinois is upgrading their tollways so that you don't need to go through a slow lane at all anymore, you just drive straight through an open highway at full speed with sensors mounted on an overhead truss. However with this comes the drawback that if you don't have an I-Pass, you have to pull off the tollway entirely to pay with coins, and they charge you extra to boot.
Thanks rootbeer277! I now notice that Virginia (my current state of residency) has the same high-speed tollways for some of the local roads. Shame on me for not researching more.