Atlantic City Expressway operators may scrap plans for cashless tolling on the roadway.
Officials with the South Jersey Transportation Authority, or SJTA, said they are looking at several ways to upgrade the expressway's toll-collection system.
While the SJTA believes cashless tolling is still the best way to improve traffic flow and reduce vehicle pollution, SJTA spokeswoman Sharon Gordon said the agency will decide which system - with or without cashless tolling - best suits the expressway and its travelers. The SJTA will likely discuss that with expressway "stakeholders," including travelers and representatives from Atlantic City casinos and the region's tourism industry, she said.
"We really do need a lot of feedback," Gordon said. "We want to make the travel experience a very positive one."
However, a decision will have to be reached soon.
Work to make the Route 50-expressway interchange a full interchange is scheduled to be completed sometime this spring. SJTA officials said the interchange will only accept electronic E-ZPass payments when it opens.
"We have a lot of work to do," Gordon said.
Patrick O'Halloran, president of Local 196 of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, which represents about 50 expressway toll collectors, said scrapping the cashless toll proposal gives travelers payment options.
"You would be forcing people to use credit cards with high interest rates (to pay with a cashless tolling system)," O'Halloran said. "We're not against technology. There's E-ZPass, which is basically cashless tolls if you opt to get it."
O'Halloran said many people, especially senior citizens, prefer to pay tolls with cash. The toll collectors also provide traveler services, such as helping with directions, he said.
"Since the inception of the road, we've always had toll-takers there," he said. "It's always worked out. Everyone seems to be happy with it. There's not a lot of complaints."
As for the toll collectors, SJTA officials said they would be "cross-trained" and could fill other jobs with the agency as those jobs become available.
The SJTA announced in November 2008 that it wanted the expressway to go cashless by the end of this year. Authority officials said they believed the system would work with a mix of E-ZPass and video tolling.
With the E-ZPass electronic tolling system, tolls are deducted from a prepaid account. E-ZPass Plus, another version of the system, is available to motorists who use credit cards to replenish their accounts. Drivers who use E-ZPass get discounted tolls.
Video tolling uses surveillance cameras to record the license plate numbers of vehicles that go through toll booths without using E-ZPass. The license plate numbers would be used to find addresses for toll-billing purposes.
According to SJTA annual reports, the percentage of motorists using E-ZPass has increased annually from 40 percent in 2002 to 56 percent in 2008. Gordon said the figure is now at about 61 percent.
A motorist survey being distributed by the SJTA asks motorists why they do not use E-ZPass. The reasons from which the motorists can pick range from drivers not having a credit card or bank account to not wanting a record of their travel.
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