Penn Pike to up E-ZPass tolls 2%, cash tolls 12% Jan 1, 2014
By Peter Samuel
2013-07-29: Pennsylvania Turnpike Commissioners at their meeting this month approved a January 1 2014 increase in toll rates of 2% for E-ZPass electronic toll transactions and 12% for cash toll payments. For the fourth time since 2011 the Penn Pike is pushing electronic tolls up less than cash tolls.
The average car (Class 1) toll under the new rates will be $2.92 E-ZPass vs $4.49 cash, a $1.57 or 35% discount.
The Turnpike gives the following examples as common Turnpike trips and the associated car tolls undeer the 2014 pricing:
Here is the effect the 2014 increase is expected to have on some of the most-common Pennsylvania Turnpike Class-1 (or passenger) trips:
- A short, commuter trip for Class-1 vehicles will increase from $1.02 to $1.04 for E-ZPass customers and from $1.40 to $1.60 for cash-paying travelers. Some examples of popular short trips include: Willow Grove (#343) to Bensalem (#351); Irwin (#67) to Pittsburgh (#57); and Harrisburg East (#247) to Harrisburg West (#242). E-ZPass users will save 56 cents on these trips.
- A typical, mid-length trip for Class-1 vehicles will increase from $2.71 to $2.77 for E-ZPass customers and from $3.55 to $4 for cash-paying travelers. Some examples of popular medium trips include: Morgantown (#298) to Valley Forge (#326); Lehigh Valley (#56) to Pocono (#95); and Cranberry (#28) to Pittsburgh (#57). E-ZPass users will save $1.23 on these trips.
- A longer, regional trip for Class-1 vehicles will increase from $7.10 to $7.25 for E-ZPass customers and from $9.10 to $10.20 for cash-paying travelers. Some examples of popular regional trips include: Mid-County (#20) to Wyoming Valley (#115); Breezewood (#161) to New Stanton (#75); and Reading (#286) to Delaware River Bridge (#359). E-ZPass users will save $2.95 on these trips.
The new toll rates seem to average about 8.3c/mile for a car with E-ZPass and an average 11.5c/mile paying cash (our calculation from increases). With rounding the actual rates seem higher. The average length trip cited is 10c/mile with E-ZPass and 14c/mile cash. (CHECK CHECK)
No numbers yet for planned tolls for trucks except the decision was made to eliminate the commercial vehicle volume discount program from the first of 2014.
Cash collection 5x to 10x cost ETC
Cash toll collection they say costs them five to ten times the cost of an electronic toll to transact. Over 70% of transactions are now electronic. By 2017 the Turnpike plans to be all-electronic, no cash collection.
Enrollment in E-ZPass costs motorists $38 of which $35 is a prepaid tolls balance, and $3 is the signup and transponder service fee for the first year. A $3 service fee is levied each year thereafter.
The planned 2014 toll increase is only the 11th in the Turnpike's 73 year history but the sixth since the state's onerous Act 44 of 2007 forced the Turnpike to make annual grants of currently $450m to the state DOT for free roads ($200m) and transit subsidies ($250m). The Turnpike says the latest increase is "largely needed" to meet its obligations under the Act. They will also support its capital improvement program which involves progressive rebuild of the old 2x2 lane highway and widening to 2x3 lanes.
"Repeal Act 44"
CEO Mark Compton in a statement today made a forceful call for relief from the Act 44 obligations:
"We understand that these recurrent annual increases can create an economic hardship for some, and for this reason we ardently support a measure in the general assembly that would modify the funding requirements in Act 44. If passed, this measure would mean that the PTC could eventually reduce the magnitude of future toll increases."
The Turnpike makes about $800m a year in tolls. Operating costs consume about half that, leaving $400m cash flow. That has to cover depreciation and debt service. Obliged to find $450m/year for annual transfers to PennDOT the Pike has been forced to borrow the money.
Debt accumulated on account of Act 44 now totals $4.3 billion and involves annual debt service costs of $226m, a number which climbs as more debt is run up.
see press release on toll hike: