Using Google Maps to avoid tolls - a hit and miss affair

May 3, 2010
By Peter Samuel

Google Maps have an option "Avoid Tolls" as part of their "Get Directions"  where you enter an origin and a destination. It generates the typical list of turn points and a map. There are some weird mistakes in Google Maps.

It 'thinks" that the Holland Tunnel NY-NJ is toll-free, for example, we discovered first up. In fact none of the PANYNJ toll bridges or tunnels are recognized as levying tolls.

Now we find Google Maps doesn't  seem to recognize any New York City tolls. It will send toll avoiding Google Mappers over the Triborough Bridge (renamed Kennedy).

OK Baltimore works.

Going from Locust Point to Dundalk Google Maps correctly routes you through downtown Baltimore to avoid the tolls on the Ft McHenry Tunnel.

But go up to your editor's one-time stomping ground of Tarrytown NY and Avoid Tolls routes you right through the middle of the NYSTA toll plaza on the Tarrytown side.

Same in Philadelphia/South Jersey. Hit Get Directions, check option Avoid Tolls and Google Maps sends you right through the DRPA's Ben Franklin Bridge toll plaza. Has DRPA got something going with Google? (CORRECTION thanks to a reader)

But Avoid Tolls seems to work in Miami.

Take a trip from Miami Int Airport to Miami Beach and it puts the motorist on the 836 as far as NW27th Av, the interchange before the toll plaza, routes you along NW7th St, gets you to do a left on NW12th Av to rejoin the 836 after the NW20th St toll plaza.

We loved the San Francisco-Oakland trip. Avoiding tolls is CA82 and 140km (86.6mi) and 3hrs 1 min, while paying the toll is 20km (12.4mi) and 18mins freeflow or 55mins in heavy traffic, Google Maps say.

Up in Detroit Michigan Avoid Tolls doesn't work. It sends you right through the Detroit Windsor Tunnel or over the Ambassador Bridge. And further up the Detroit River Google Maps would have you believe the Blue Water Bridge is toll-free too.

Washington DC  to Easton MD by Avoid Tolls puts the motorist through MDTA's Chesapeake Bay Bridge toll plaza.

But Philadelphia to Pittsburgh PA seems to work - US30 through Lancaster, US322 through Harrisburg, way up north to State College then back down I-99 through Altoona and on US22, I-376 and US30 - avoiding the Penn Pike but adding many hours to your journey

There's also something screwy about Google Maps travel times. Regardless of whether you use the expressway standard tollroads or the surface arterials between Washington DC and Boston they clock you at an average 90km/hr (55.9mph). We'd guess it's closer to 100km/hr (62mph) on the toll route and 80km/hr (50mph) on the untolled route - or should we say the Less Tolled Route because you don't cross either the Delaware River or the Hudson without a toll.

Now we look more closely there are mistakes in the supposed toll-free route between Washington DC and Boston MA:

- I-78 at Easton has a toll on the Delaware River by DRJTBC (a toll westbound)

- it sends you over the Hudson River on the George Washington Bridge, also tolled (eastbound) by the PANYNJ

These tolls are one-direction.

You've got to love the old fashioned hand drawn toll avoidance map reproduced recently in SLATE showing how to get past the Delaware Turnpike toll.

TOLLROADSnews 2010-05-03

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