Soon you'll be able to go faster miles an hour on the Tobin

State House News Service reports the state Department of Transportation plans to replace Tobin Bridge tollbooths with an "open tolling" system that will either debit your E-ZPass account or snap a photo of your license plate and then send you a bill. Could be in place by year's end.



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Now just replace the Allston tolls with this and reclaim that land for better uses.

Open-road tolling will be in place by 2015, with the Tobin Bridge opening up earlier this year, Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey told lawmakers on Wednesday.

So maybe by 2015?


I'm confused. Replace them with what? A Five Guys? Aren't the Allston tolls also an off ramp from the Pike to Cambridge and Allston?

Me too!

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But absent that, how about funneling soldiers field drive onto the pike there and making Storrow at grade and reconnected to the grid.

It save us a billion rather then trying to rebuild the dilapidated bridges and tunnels along it, or save us 500 million and ruing the lower Charles by throwing even more surface roads through parkland.

Time for Boston to retake it's riverfront.

Jumping the gun

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Yeah, I'm under the impression that the whole interchange could be done in much less space without the tollbooths, plus the opportunity to realign things given by the vacancy of CSX Beacon Park (presumably they could work something out with Harvard).

But that's all years in the future, so, probably nothing doing for a while.

I love the idea, but success depends on implementation

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I think that this should be implemented first at the West Stockbridge tolls so that DOT can work out the bugs at that comparatively lower volume plaza.

I would attempt Allston last, because I have to believe that a major roadway realignment will have to be undertaken there, or else you know there will be some yahoos driving eastbound at 80 that don't make the turn, careen into the westbound lanes and if they makes it through those, go over the edge, hopefully over Storrow and the bikepath, and into the river. The speeding westbounders will end up in Houghton Chemical (greaaat). At all events, getting engaged in a multi-year super expensive and disruptive traffic improvement project is not the way to get public buy-in for a new system.

Like most transport initiatives, I think the state needs to build public trust by implementing this very worthwhile but new-to-most-around-here methodology in the locations where it is most likely to demonstrate a noticeable improvement without a very public screw up. Since the world does not exist beyond Worcester for the Boston media, I think that West Stockbridge fits the bill nicely.

I do not think that the Tobin, the tunnels or Allston are the places where implementation is most likely to go smoothly. I can see it now - the license plate capturing doesn't work properly and the state loses millions of dollars over the two months it takes to figure that out. Rather than reinforcing (sometimes undeserved) perceptions that the state can never do anything right, let's make sure everything is ready for primetime before we roll it out in the highest traffic areas within easy driving distance of the lazy msm's news trucks.

Finally, I'm not sure that the state will be reclaiming the Allston land for anything - didn't they sell it all to Harvard and merely maintain easements for the existing publicly-owned transport assets (which would further complicate a roadway realignment as that would almost certainly have to go outside the existing ROW)?

You can't convert West

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You can't convert West Stockbridge until you convert all the other exits on the Pike, since you need to track entry and exit.

the technology is already there

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As someone who has been "notified" via a mailed letter that his wife accidentally took the u-turn at Allston without a transponder (after missing the 93 exit coming from the airport) I can tell you that the technology is already there and working so there are not really bugs to work out on that end.

Pretty simple really, you have a transponder you pay, you don't have a transponder you get a bill for the toll instead of a ticket.

Just because you got one

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Just because you got one warning letter doesn't mean the system is ready to process and collect payments from everyone.

Allston tolls

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One of the issues with the Allston tolls (as I was told) is that they're on a curve. The Pike bends around the rail yards at that point. Open road tolling is great because it means you don't really have to slow down, except on a curve like that one they would prefer it if people did. In time I would think people would get used to there being open road tolling at that locale, but I can imagine the first several months being complete chaos as people round the corner and have no idea which lane they should be in.

At any rate I heard that establishing open road tolling at the Allston tolls will entail more work (effort, time and money) than at locales like the Tobin Bridge. I'm still not exactly sure why, but there you go.


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They started doing this on one of the SF bridges. The problem being: you can't pay in cash anymore, so it's either EZ-Pass, or license photos.

No privacy - you *have* to be tracked now.


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It's EZ Pass or a FINE. There's no option for a lack of transponders, or cash. (Unless it's changed since then, in which case I want my fine paid back to be)

Pretty sure the bridge down in Newport, RI is the same. Basically it's a way to fleece people that don't know the area. And it's a really dick move considering the same technology used to snap a citation photo, is the same that could send you a bill with a $2 processing fee.


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Most Open Road Tolling implementations allow you to either:
-Pre-pay your toll online, and it just verifies your license plate when you actually pass through
-Pay your toll online or at a random store afterwards
-Receive a bill for your toll in the mail later on, often, but not always, with a small fee added.

The vast majority of Open Road Tolling implementations do not hit you with a fine if you don't have a compatible transponder, only a processing fee.

And for Massachusetts residents there's really no reason NOT to have an E-ZPass in the first place, considering that you can get one in the mail for free, or pick one up at a Pike service plaza or retail store or RMV branch. It doesn't cost you a dime, plus you get discounted tolls ($2.50 on the Tobin instead of $3), and don't have to sit in [as much] traffic on the Tobin, so it's a win-win for everyone!


I don't need a transponder for the once every five years I come back over the Tobin.

I prefer to pay cash at the tolls for the once-in-a-blue-moon I go out to Framingham.

Requiring everyone to get a transponder is bogus; at this point they should just install them on the plates and be done with.


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I know that.

I'm saying the Bay Bridge doesn't do that, they issue fines instead. At least thats how it worked on my cross country roadtrip in 2010.

They also didn't take EZPass, but their own version that wasn't compatible, which is why I ended up getting the fine.

Texas had it right though, my pass worked and if it didn't their at speed toll would just mail me a bill, not a fine.

The Bay Bridge has always had

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The Bay Bridge has always had more lanes for cash than FasTrak. Sounds like you encountered some strange concatenation of circumstances.

No transponder required

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I work for the engineering firm that did the design for the Tobin open road tolling system, and I can confirm that this is a system that will take a picture of your license plate and send you a bill if you do not have a transponder.

What license plate?

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I still see cars with the single rear-only green-letter plates, many of them illegibly faded. Will they finally be forcing people to turn these in?

I also noticed that my front plate was packed with snow the other night after driving in a snowstorm. What's to keep people from covering their plate with snow or just one of those filmy cover things?

illegible license plates

This is a peeve of mine. I went to the RMV website and encouraged them to enforce plate visibility at vehicle inspection. Now I that I have done something constructive (?) I feel better about griping on UHUB.


What about trucks and SUVs that have platforms on the back to hold a giant cooler? When they're in use, the license plate is completely hidden. I can't figure out why the cops don't pull them over. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. Just kidding, they're good old boys going to a tailgate party, why hassle them?

Usually when this happens,

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Usually when this happens, anyone without a transponder gets hit with a huge pay-by-mail fee, often several times the cost of the toll.

For example, the A25 bridge in Montreal only costs $1.84 off peak/$2.44 peak, but the pay-by-mail fee is $5 extra -- a 272% surcharge. And there's no other way to pay if you don't have an account with them.

The Henry Hudson Bridge in NYC is a mere 105% surcharge ($2.44 toll, plus a $2.56 pay-by-mail surcharge, as of Sunday's increase. Out-of-state E-ZPass accounts have to pay the full surcharge as well.)

Has MassDOT announced how much they're going to gouge infrequent users who have to pay by mail? Also, right now the Tobin gives the E-ZPass discount to anyone, unlike the tunnels and Pike which only give it to Mass accounts. Will that change?

Seeing as

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EZ passes are free, let me put this here:


At speed tolling gives you an opt out option, but it costs more. Or you go the easy route and pay less. Seems fair to me, especially since it keeps traffic rolling and will get rid of a 95% patronage organization.

Ok. I'll just go sign up for

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Ok. I'll just go sign up for a separate transponder account for every toll bridge I might ever cross, and pay the monthly fees that a lot of agencies charge. I won't be able to see out the windshield, but that's what they want us to do to avoid all these surcharges.

And I'm sure they're going to spend plenty of money on the people who handle mail-in payments. And the people who deal with phone calls and angry letters from people who get bills by mistake when they mis-read the license plate number.

And the people who had transponders but get fined anyway. Until now, you could avoid this by just using a cash lane. No more -- now *everyone* has to get logged in the system that may or may not drag them through months of bureaucracy.

Please reread my earlier

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Please reread my earlier post. I cited two examples of bridges that impose the full cash surcharge unless you have a transponder account with *their* agency.

Ha! Way to go, driving suckers

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The Department of Transportation may have come up with some piddly little way for you to save time and get places faster, but the real improvements are on the T - they have video screens that play Blue Man Group ads now!

* cries *