Toll scofflaws within projections

Turnpike taking steps to go after nonpayers

For decades, the Pennsylvania Turnpike has been a cornerstone of our economy that now provides safe travel to 500,000 customers daily.

Over time, our roadway evolved to reflect customers’ needs and those of our commonwealth.

When consumers were turning to electronic payments, we implemented All-Electronic Tolling. Even before that, travelers expressed a preference for automated payment by getting E-ZPass.

Today, more than 85% of our customers use E-ZPass.

The decision to convert to AET was a measured one that began in 2010.

Ten years later, this preparation allowed us to convert to AET 18 months ahead of schedule to safeguard operations and ensure customer and employee safety during COVID-19.

AET is safer because it eliminates the confusion and lane switching of traditional tolling; AET increases mobility by alleviating travel-time impacts.

For these and other reasons, AET is being adopted in 19 of 35 states with tolling — nearly 55%.

Our technology, and our collections, are performing as expected based on benchmarks identified during a series of AET pilot projects. Since the switch to AET in mid-2020, leakage — motorists not paying — has remained around the 6% mark; while we are working to improve that, it is what we projected.

Throughout this transition, we set a high bar for transparency, sharing updates with lawmakers, and posting revenue data online. I urge readers to review our Revenue Assurance Plan and decide for themselves how transparent we are.

Even before AET, we disclosed numerous financial documents. This wealth of data includes the Annual Financial Report, our Capital Plan, detailed reports on our bonds and toll revenue and volume, not to mention our Act 44 Financial Plans.

Leakage was a challenge for our industry even when we collected cash — just as it is for retail businesses. Leakage is mainly a customer-behavior issue, not a system issue.

It is important to recognize that “leakage” is not the same as “loss.” In fact, toll rates were set to account for nonpayment. A surcharge implemented in 2021 offsets unpaid tolls, just as the cost of goods we buy in retail stores is set to cover loss.

We take a multifaceted approach to tackling leakage. We engage debt-collection firms.

State law authorizes the suspension of vehicle registrations for Pennsylvania owners with unpaid tolls. We partner with district attorneys to bring criminal charges against violators. And we continue to work with the legislature, PennDOT, and other states to develop more measures.

Along with this, we are making it easier for customers to pay. We launched a smartphone app that allows customers receive a discount on toll invoices with the PA Toll Pay App, and we partnered with a cash-payment network to allow customers to pay invoices or fund E-ZPass accounts at more than 70,000 stores nationwide.

We take leakage seriously, and we focus significant resources to curtail it. Most travelers do the right thing and pay what’s owed.

These people deserve our best efforts to pursue the few who haven’t paid.


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