Maine Turnpike discounts phased in as a $600k concession to frequent users in compromise for Nov 1 hikes

October 30, 2012

2012-10-30: Maine Turnpike Authority board at its October meeting agreed on new deeper discounts for frequent users following strong protests about the phase out of a deep discount plan as part of the toll hike Thursday (November 1.)

The last minute compromise provides for a 50% discount from E-ZPass rates for all Maine E-ZPass customers making 40 or more one-way trips per month and 25% for customers making between 30 and 39 trips through July 1, 2013 when the original less generous discount plan approved in August will be implemented.

Nov 1 hikes bigger for cash than E-ZPass

Tolls for cars paying cash at mainline toll plazas will increase by $1.00 to $3 in York, by 50c to $2.25 in New Gloucester, by 50c to $1.75 in West Gardiner, the northbound entrance at Wells and the southbound entrance in Gray will increase by 50c to $1.50, November 1.

E-ZPass rates increase 1 cent per mile on average for trips longer than 7 miles while trips shorter than 7 miles will have no increase.

The one cent a mile toll increase for transponder paying cars is from 6.7c/mile to 7.7c/mile or 15%. Cash tolls increase from 33% at the northern toll points to 50% in case of the southern mainline plaza at York.

Nearly two-thirds of customers use E-ZPass so an increased uptake will be encouraged by the larger E-ZPass discount relative to cash.

Maine Turnpike is unusual in having a trip based toll system for transponder equipped vehicles. Acting like a ticket system E-ZPass transponders are used to register entry and exit locations, the miles traveled being used to calculate the toll due.  Cash of course is a point or barrier toll, paid many trips at two or three points in the trip.

The new frequent user plan approved in August but now postponed from Nov 1, 2012 to  July 1 2013 provides:

- 10% discount for more than 30 trips in the month
- 20% discount for more than 40 trips in the month
- 30% discount for more than 50 trips in the month
- 40% discount for more than 60 trips in the month
- 50% discount for more than 70 trips in the month

The previous commuter discount plan required prepayment for three months and its rules generated confusion and led to high administrative costs. But it was ocular among those eligible because in some cases the discounts were put to 65%.

The toll increases agreed in August are aimed to increase toll revenues by about $21.1m. The compromised phase-in of the frequent user discount will cost around $600k, reducing the extra revenue next year to about $20.5m or 3%.

Revenues are currently around $101m/year so the average toll increases given static traffic are about 20%.  The extra revenue is needed, the Turnpike says, for an enhanced rehabilitation and modernization program over the 109 mile system.

The last increase in tolls was February 1 2009.

Review of impact needed by May Day

In addition to the phase-in the Turnpike board asked for a review of the financial impact of discount changes to be available by May 1 next year, two months before the move to the graduated discounts is due to occur.

Those getting the discount rates are about 25,000 of an average 200,000 transactions per day or 12.5% whereas the tolls they pay are less than $5m or 5% total revenues.

TOLLROADSnews 2012-10-30

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