This week's 'Ask Evan' question deals with tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. John E asks, "If pictures of my license plate are taken at PA Turnpike toll booths to assess tolls, why is there still a need for an E-ZPass transponder inside my car?"
The Turnpike Commission does snap a picture of your license plate when you go through a turnpike booth. That photo, in real-time, is used to check to see if the vehicle is attached to an active E-ZPass account. If so the toll is charged to the account. If not- a violation and invoice is mailed out.
So that leads to your question. If the license plate picture is used to charge an E-ZPass account, why the need for a transponder?
A PA Turnpike Commission spokesman tells me that E-ZPass devices are more accurate. Accounts are pre-paid so the toll is captured up front. Video tolling is post pay, and the PA Turnpike Commission has to chase after the tolls and not everyone pays.
The spokesman also says E-ZPass is preferred by 85 percent of customers and is a successful program operated in 17 states. He also says E-ZPass is the most economical way to collect tolls and will continue to be the cheapest way to pay on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
He adds that while license-plate recognition is getting better with every software and camera technology update, there are still image readability issues. License plates can be obstructed by snow, dirt, fading due to age, bike racks, plate frames and a number of other reasons. So E-ZPass transponders are much more efficient.
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