What's the Point of the E-ZPass Lane?

You’ll have to excuse the rhetorical nature of the question, but here in the mid-atlantic region and into the northeast, we have an electronic toll collection system called E-ZPass. It amounts to pre-paid tolls monitored by transponders – one in the toll lane and another mounted on the front windshield of the car. Pass through an E-ZPass-enabled lane and the vehicle’s transponder is read and the associated account is debited the cost of the toll. Easy, right?

On most – and maybe all – of the toll roads I travel, all of the toll lanes accept E-ZPass, but a few lanes are set aside for E-ZPass only so that traffic can keep moving through rather than stop to pass cash. It’s a great idea, except nobody seems to have the first freaking clue how to use it.

There’s the Clueless Wonder who, in spite of signs to the contrary, seems to believe that the red light – the one that turns green as soon as the transponder is detected and debited – is actually a stop sign. There can’t possibly be _that_many people who have never done this before in their lives, can there?

There’s the Vanity Windshield Guy who can’t be bothered to actually mount his transponder on his windshield. Instead, he stops at the lane, digs through his console to find his transponder, then holds it up and proceeds to wave it around until the transponder is seen and the light turns green.

There’s the Adult Literacy Candidate who is apparently unable to read the large purple sign sporting the E-ZPass logo that clearly says ONLY right beneath that logo. S/He also can’t read the sign that says, “Keep going, we’ll bill you” (I’m paraphrasing). After a prolonged, confused pause, the Adult Literacy Candidate will usually throw up his or her hands and just go. Probably because they’re unable to think of anything better to do.

Most frustrating, though, is the Adult Literacy Candidate Do-Gooder. S/He’s a real peach. Not only does s/he stop, but s/he will also choose one of the following courses of action once at a complete stop:

  • Put the car in Park, exit the vehicle and walk over to one of the manned booths nearby in an attempt to pay the toll that way.
  • Put the car in Reverse, yes, I said Reverse and try to back out of the E-ZPass lane so that they can enter a regular toll lane. Never mind the endless line of cars that have gathered behind them waiting to proceed.

So I ask again, what’s the point? It’s a surprisingly rare occasion when I actually get to drive through without so much as a dramatic pause for some dolt in front of me.

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