How to know if your transponder works -- and other transportation questions
Are left-turn arrows safety nets or Trojan horses? Must your transponder be plastered on your windshield exactly to exact tolls? And are those double letters on the new Illinois license plates, or are we seeing double?
In this week's column, we answer readers' questions, starting with Tom Jennings of Hanover Park, who wonders if new left-turn arrow signals at County Farm and Army Trail roads do more harm than good.
"I think this change only slows traffic more than it does to enhance traffic," Jennings said. "I noticed since they made this change, there seems to be more of a line of cars waiting to turn than before."
And, "I don't believe this will reduce any accidents that much," Jennings thinks. "The last few times I was at that intersection, there were at least three to four cars making the left turn as the green arrow went red. There were some close calls."
But Evan Shields, DuPage County's public information officer, says "the use of a left-turn-on-green arrow-only signal is an effective countermeasure to angle crashes, which result in the most serious injuries.
"The change in operations of the signal at Army Trail and County Farm was an effort to reduce the number of crashes resulting in severe-injury and fatal crashes at the intersection," Shields explained, noting that the signal will be monitored and adjusted.
Meanwhile, Don Sarubbi still misses his communicative transponder of yore that beeped. The current version gives him the silent treatment.
"The new transponder doesn't give any indication that a toll was taken," Sarubbi said. "I went years without any notification that my transponder was broken."
His big question -- "What happens when your transponder is mounted correctly and the device malfunctions or something interferes with the toll collection? Are we going to be charged double the rate?"
It's a prescient point given that the tollway intends to double rates for I-PASS customers who go through tolls without a transponder in 2018.
I piggybacked on Sarubbi's question to ask if transponders work if they're lying around the front seat in a cupholder, for example.
"I-PASS transponders may sometimes operate even if not correctly installed," spokesman Dan Rozek explained.
"But to ensure the transponder is read accurately it should be properly mounted on a vehicle's windshield. An I-PASS transponder electronically activates about 300 feet before reaching a toll collection point, so if it is not properly mounted on the windshield, the signal might not be read." For instructions, go to https://www.illinoistollway.com/tolling-information/about-ipass#HangItUp.
To check if your transponder works:
• Drive through a lane with an automatic coin machine. If you get a green light, you're good; if it's red, there's a problem.
• Drive through an I-PASS lane on a toll road ramp -- if a blue or yellow light flashes, it's fine.
• Drive through a tollbooth lane with a collector who will lift the gate if it's working. Or have it tested at a customer service center at the agency headquarters in Downers Grove or at certain oases. If it's not working and you want to question charges, contact the tollway at 800-UC-IPASS or (800) 824-7277.
Finally, Jerry Hamilton's curiosity was piqued by all the double letters on new Illinois license plates. "I'm seeing dozens of them starting with 'AK, AN, AL,'" the Naperville resident wrote. "Plates starting with one letter are quite common. But much fewer two letters. Am I correct or just dreaming?"
Illinois Secretary of State spokesman Dave Druker reports that Jerry is right, double letters are being used to start the plate combination. he reason is "more number combinations. We run out with just a single letter," Druker said.
Got a question or comment? Drop me an email at email@example.com.
Learn what's next with the plan to add a tolled express lane to I-55 in DuPage and Cook counties at a public meeting sponsored by IDOT from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, at Toyota Park, 7000 Harlem Ave. in Bridgeview. The lane would run between Veterans Memorial Tollway (I-355) and downtown. To learn more, go to http://www.i55managedlaneproject.org.
Once in 200 years
A high school sophomore won the Illinois tollway's contest to design the 2018 road map. This year's theme involves Illinois' bicentennial. The winning artist was Lindley Wiesner of Lake Forest High School for a design featuring the state's outline and iconic images referencing Abraham Lincoln, O'Hare International Airport, the Chicago skyline, farms and hot dogs. The contest was open to students across the state and the map will be distributed to more than 75,000 customers.