Why you should buy an I-Pass transponder before 2018
The new year will bring a financial penalty for I-PASS customers who drive through tolls without a transponder or who neglect to properly mount transponders in their vehicles.
The fee, which is double the I-PASS rate, would be triggered the sixth time in a month no transponder is detected with a particular license plate.
An I-PASS user who goes through tolls five times a month without paying -- because there is no transponder in his or her vehicle or because it's not in the right location to activate a toll -- would still be charged the I-PASS rate.
The cycle starts afresh each month.
The change goes into effect Jan. 1. Officials say it is an effort to recoup costs and require drivers to get an I-PASS for every vehicle.
The doubled fee is equal to the cash rate people who don't have I-PASS accounts pay.
"Our goal is not to penalize people who make a mistake on occasion," Chairman Robert Schillerstrom said. "Our goal, though, is if people chose not to get a transponder and do so over a period of time -- we're going to penalize them for it.
"Ninety-eight percent of people who use the tollway have transponders in every car, and in many ways it's unfair for people who follow all the rules. We want to drive more people to get transponders. It works better for the entire system, it raises our collection rates and it's more fair for everyone who uses the system."
Tollway officials said they will try to alert people who hit the sixth missed toll limit within 24 hours.
When I-PASS customers cruise through toll plazas without transponders, it takes time for employees to match license plates with I-PASS accounts and charge the electronic rate, officials say.
For every $1 collected on tolls, it costs about 8 cents in expenses when a transponder is used; it costs 23 cents when a transponder is not used.
Officials said I-PASS transponders might sometimes operate even if not correctly installed, 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," spokesman Dan Rozek previously said.
The tollway previously had estimated it would raise about $15 million from the penalty.
Transponders can be ordered online at illinoistollway.com and by phone at (800) UC-IPASS (800-824-7277). They also can be purchased at local Jewel-Osco stores or tollway customer service center.