Editorial: Failing to give change at toll plazas is just wrong

  • An automatic toll payment machine isn't giving out change to drivers exiting westbound I-88 at the Northern Illinois University/Annie Glidden Drive exit. ramp.

      An automatic toll payment machine isn't giving out change to drivers exiting westbound I-88 at the Northern Illinois University/Annie Glidden Drive exit. ramp. Marni Pyke | Staff Photographer

 
Posted11/15/2019 1:00 AM

Remember the days before I-PASS when upon encountering a tollway offramp you'd frantically dig around your car for enough change to satisfy the hungry white perforated toll basket?

In some cases, you'd keep throwing change at it until the arm went up and let you pass.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Thank goodness the Illinois Tollway replaced 80 of those in the last couple of years with touch screen machines (ATPMs) that accept credit cards, folding money and coins.

The toll baskets were old and unreliable and replacement parts were hard to come by, which explains why sometimes it didn't seem to matter how many coins you threw at one to make the stop arm rise. Some still exist, mind, you, but not as many.

If you're an out-of-towner and don't have an I-PASS transponder, the new $76,000 high-tech machines are real anxiety-savers. They even accept $2 bills.

But if you're getting off I-88 to visit your kid at Northern Illinois University, as our transportation expert Marni Pyke wrote on Monday, be sure to have exact change or use a credit card. If you feed the machine three singles for your $2.10 toll, you've paid 43 percent too much.

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"No change given," the machine tells you. It's even written on the face of it.

About 30 toll payment machines on the mainline do offer change, Pyke reported. But 80 at ramps don't.

Why?

"Cash baskets at these locations have never given change to customers, and ATPMs at these locations do not, either," tollway spokesman Dan Rozek said.

Simply put, that's highway robbery.

One would never expect one of the old toll baskets to fire change back at you. The mechanism simply isn't a two-way thing.

But today's machines are. They can make change. Not giving someone change because previous technologies couldn't do it might fit well with the tollway's budgeting, but it's just plain wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Logic tells us that this would hurt the poorest of us most -- those who don't have credit cards, those to whom change from a dollar means something.

This is not the equivalent of finding that rare soda machine that does not give change. You can walk past that soda machine and slake your thirst somewhere else.

On the tollway, you need to pay to exit.

It's just that simple.

It's time to change your tune, tollway directors, and do the right thing.

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