Got one I-PASS transponder but multiple cars? It could cost you in 2018 as the Illinois tollway cracks down on I-PASS users that drive through tolls without transponders.
"As of Jan. 1, no transponder, no discount," states an email from the tollway to a small number of I-PASS users in August.
The email formalizes a proposal directors talked about this spring to double rates for I-PASS customers who frequently drive through toll plazas without transponders.
By "discount," the agency means the I-PASS rate, which is half as much as the cash rate. A toll costing 40 cents with an I-PASS is 80 cents at the cash rate, for example.
The change is intended to prod people into obtaining transponders for all their vehicles and would raise about $15 million in extra revenue. The agency currently uses video footage of missed tolls to match license plates with I-PASS holders and then charges the amount owed to a person's account. That process is time-consuming for employees, officials say.
Why don't people have transponders for each car? Some resent paying extra deposits for transponders. Others say they don't use toll roads enough to justify it.
Tollway officials didn't provide specifics about the transition Friday.
"The tollway is planning to roll out a new transponder incentive program, which will encourage I-PASS users to continue receiving the 50 percent discount on tolls they enjoy now by obtaining a separate transponder for each of their vehicles," spokesman Dan Rozek said.
"In advance of this program, the tollway as part of a market research project sent emails to a small group of I-PASS users. The results of this email effort will help guide our plans for launching the transponder incentive program."
Most I-PASS users have multiple transponders registered to the same I-PASS account, Rozek said. But last year about 40 percent of I-PASS users had fewer transponders than vehicles registered to their accounts, he added.
"I-PASS users will have multiple options to obtain additional transponders through their existing I-PASS account, which will allow them to obtain new transponders with only a refundable $10 deposit per transponder," Rozek said.
According to the tollway's website, households with a number of transponders on one account will not need to maintain separate balances for each.
Previously, directors talked about requiring 10 missed payments to trigger the penalty and suspending the $10 deposit. Officials could not say whether those options would be available.
"The goal of the program is to increase transponder usage so more drivers receive the 50 percent discount on tolls and also to help keep tollway administrative costs low," Rozek said.
Got an opinion? Drop me an email at email@example.com.
How to obtain a transponder
Order the devices online through your I-PASS account at illinoistollway.com and by phone at (800) UC-IPASS (800-824-7277). For that personal shopping experience, pick one up at a local Jewel-Osco store or tollway customer service center.
My inbox was full with opinions on the auto mechanics strike.
Reader Kevin Ford wrote, "good for these people for fighting back and demanding a better package that is necessary for this one life they have to live. It's necessary because people have mouths to feed, bills to pay, taxes, etc. ... oh, and it's also nice to actually enjoy your life a little bit while you're at it."
Meanwhile David Frye of St. Charles calls the strike a "lose-lose" situation. "People are not going to wait for the mechanics to come back to work to have their car repaired," Frye said. "They will go somewhere else. Many times they will be satisfied with the new shop and won't go back to the dealer. The ultimate result is less work and less need for the mechanics."
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