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-   -   The cashless toll road trap: FL and others (https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/rental-car-discussion/1678238-cashless-toll-road-trap-fl-others.html)

nsx May 7, 15 11:46 am

The cashless toll road trap: FL and others
 
Last year I encountered my first cashless toll road in Austin, TX. In a rental car you have no way to pay the thing. Furthermore the road signs do not warn you of this problem.

On top of that, it was after a wrong turn: I didn't benefit from the toll road in any way. The rental car company billed me a multi-dollar amount for a 25 or 50 cent toll.

Recently I had the same problem in Florida. I had been using toll roads, of which there are many in Florida, and I had plenty of quarters on hand to pay tolls. So I thought nothing of entering a toll road in Tampa. The toll road signs did NOT say "Cash not accepted" or anything of the sort. Yet on the exit there was no payment option at all. Just "we will send you a bill". No, they will send National a bill, and National will charge me $5 or whatever for a 50 cent toll.

What a way to welcome tourists to your state. I've read that these roads are all over southern Florida, although I don't know if they are better marked there than the one I encountered.

Always ask at the rental counter about cashless toll roads in the area. If you learn how they are marked (or not marked) you may be able to avoid them. But it's getting more difficult: GPS apps lead you right onto them.

There is a business opportunity here for a GPS app that avoids routing onto cashless toll roads.

Dieuwer May 7, 15 11:57 am

Vote with your wallet. REFUSE to visit Florida.

IAHtraveler May 7, 15 7:51 pm

Annoying to say the least. One way I've found to reduce the burden: grab a toll transponder. I have one for EZPass that never leaves my work bag. When in FL last month, I also picked up one of their transponders at Publix for use in my trips there. Now if only everyone took EZPass! Or they had an app for that...

fairviewroad May 8, 15 12:15 pm


Originally Posted by nsx (Post 24781346)
What a way to welcome tourists to your state.

Agreed. And in a state that has a very high number of inbound tourists, too. How much do you want to bet that car rental companies have quietly lobbied for these roads and the lack of signage, given the profit they make on these billings?


Originally Posted by IAHtraveler (Post 24783465)
Now if only everyone took EZPass! Or they had an app for that...

Exactly. There's no reason why there shouldn't be a nationally accepted payment platform. It would (I assume) be easy to develop an app that would use GPS to determine tolls owed and the payments are debited from a prepaid account. Obviously there would be quirks to iron out (such as making sure that passengers are not charged...there'd have to be a way to turn the app off, for instance...or have one person in the vehicle link their phone to the car's computer system via bluetooth...the point being there are ways around that problem).

bdschobel May 8, 15 6:32 pm

I had the same problem in South Florida (before I moved there). A surprise cashless toll road -- taken in error -- in a rental car cost me $15. Then in 2014, I made the completely unavoidable mistake of driving south over the now-cashless Golden Gate Bridge in a rental car. This time, the $7 toll cost me almost $40!!!!! I was really furious about that one. There was no reasonable alternative route and no way to pay in cash or even by credit card. This is a problem that really needs to be solved. One solution would be for the car-rental companies to charge back only their actual costs and not let third-party billing companies triple or quadruple those costs at our expense.

Bruce

kaaria May 9, 15 11:00 am

In southern Cali, they have a way where you can pay online within 5 days of taking the toll road. However, make sure you remember the entrance and exit points or you will be paying extra for nothing.

SanDiego1K May 9, 15 12:10 pm


Originally Posted by kaaria (Post 24790385)
In southern Cali, they have a way where you can pay online within 5 days of taking the toll road. However, make sure you remember the entrance and exit points or you will be paying extra for nothing.

Our niece drove our car on this road. She was oblivious to the sign. I subsequently got a fine for $125 or so. She paid, and was mortified.

There is a bridge in Seattle that is the same thing. It's a challenge to read the sign while driving, remember the website, and get the toll paid.

Yellowjj May 9, 15 12:18 pm

Is it only me or does no one else set their GPS to "avoid tolls". Even on a visit to New Jersey, passing through New York. I did get confused because you can't avoid a toll crossing from New Jersey to Connecticut and it was sending me all the way up to Albany; but once I figured it out, I reprogrammed it for that one instance and paid the toll.

No problems in the many years I've been traveling and handling a gps.

bdschobel May 9, 15 12:47 pm

Try avoiding the Golden Gate Bridge! :(

Bruce

Yellowjj May 9, 15 2:10 pm


Originally Posted by bdschobel (Post 24790732)
Try avoiding the Golden Gate Bridge! :(

Bruce

Isn't the golden gate bridge only tolled heading into San Fran but not tolled leaving?

Doc Savage May 9, 15 2:16 pm


Originally Posted by Yellowjj (Post 24791003)
Isn't the golden gate bridge only tolled heading into San Fran but not tolled leaving?

What difference does that make? If you are heading south, you are heading south.

bdschobel May 9, 15 2:57 pm

And, indeed, I drove north for free, but when I went back south (heading to SFO Airport), the cashless toll got me, big-time!

Bruce

Yellowjj May 9, 15 4:19 pm


Originally Posted by Doc Savage (Post 24791031)
What difference does that make? If you are heading south, you are heading south.

Quite obviously, plan around it. Employ more time and go the Oakland route back. The bridge has been cashless since 2014. I too wanted to visited San Fran and promptly researched everything I needed to know.

A little research goes a long way.

bdschobel May 9, 15 5:08 pm

Well, sure, if I knew to even ask the question, I might have found out in advance. (And maybe not, since the Golden Gate Bridge went cashless just a month or two before it caught me.) But even if I knew, did I really have any alternative to get back to SFO? Only an idiot would drive all the way around SF Bay to approach the airport from the south. Is the SF Bay Bridge also cashless? I have no idea.

Anyway, the point here is that these new, high-tech cashless toll roads are a nightmare for people in rental cars. That remains true.

Bruce

Yellowjj May 9, 15 6:40 pm


Originally Posted by bdschobel (Post 24791545)
Well, sure, if I knew to even ask the question, I might have found out in advance. (And maybe not, since the Golden Gate Bridge went cashless just a month or two before it caught me.) But even if I knew, did I really have any alternative to get back to SFO? Only an idiot would drive all the way around SF Bay to approach the airport from the south. Is the SF Bay Bridge also cashless? I have no idea.

I actually agree with you. In my case I planned it as a scenic tour and did the Oakland route back, but of course for someone pressed for time it would make no sense. AFAIK only the GG bridge is cashless.

I always try to research a city which I know to have tolls ahead of time just to make sure none are cashless where I need to go, otherwise if an alternative route isn't feasible, I'll just rent the toll transponder from the rental company.


Anyway, the point here is that these new, high-tech cashless toll roads are a nightmare for people in rental cars. That remains true.

Bruce
I agree with you and it makes me wonder why cities with high visitors/tourists who rent cars would even implement this. Almost feel like their getting a cut out of the additional fee's being charged

Non-NonRev May 9, 15 7:16 pm

The GG Bridge offers a single-trip pre-pay option. My understanding is that, if you use the pre-pay, the rental car company (or its third party partner company) never is billed.

http://goldengate.org/tolls/rentalvehicles.php

pepsi38 May 12, 15 6:05 am

As in all travel, being informed is being smart. Do your research before leaving. Ask the rental agency about transponders, tolls, before leaving the rental agency lot. In Florida, the state's goal is to make all of the expressways "toll by plate." Best to buy a transponder at the first Publix you see. I was the victim of a similar $150.00 fine for making a wrong turn (the sign was covered with snow and unreadable), and entering a cashless expressway near the Denver Airport in a snowstorm. I learned my lesson.

VT_hawkeye May 12, 15 7:13 am


Originally Posted by Yellowjj (Post 24791818)
it makes me wonder why cities with high visitors/tourists who rent cars would even implement this. Almost feel like their getting a cut out of the additional fee's being charged

Two possible explanations, both of which are annoying:
  • Nobody in the decision process gave a damn about tourists
  • As with car rental taxes, hotel taxes etc., they chose to view tourists without these tags as a voteless profit center

bdschobel May 12, 15 7:17 am


Originally Posted by VT_hawkeye (Post 24803176)
...Nobody in the decision process gave a damn about tourists....

Just can't be true in Florida. Everybody cares about tourists.

Bruce

JBerger May 12, 15 8:01 am

Toll Gauging in FL Who is [email protected]
 
I paid all the tolls in cash on a weekly rental Budget FL Rental . Vehicle was billed tolls by the a vendor in the state of NY for tolls crossing a bridge near Fort Lauderdale on a date when the car was in Tampa. Called FL number on my AMEX statement to dispute. I consider this fraud! Who is responsible? No-one fessed up . Nearly all involved had all my rental vehicle and personal information DL and CC. I was concerned about Identity Theft. :confused:AMEX removed the charge. Evidently it wasn't their first dispute of this ruse.:mad:

RSSrsvp May 12, 15 9:01 am


Originally Posted by bdschobel (Post 24790732)
Try avoiding the Golden Gate Bridge! :(

Bruce

Just think about how many people fly to CA to visit wine country and use rental cars which have to be returned to SFO!:td:

MADPhil May 12, 15 9:19 am

As noted above the GG bridge does have options for visitors as long as you know in advance. I think I saw a post on FT about the time it went cashless and then checked on their web site. Of course you can't do anything until you have the car and know the registration.

Almost all toll systems east of the Mississippi take EZ-Pass/I-Pass so you can just carry a transponder. Again you have to register the license plate. I did have a booth in Boston fail to read my I-Pass but when the contractor for National billed me and I explained what had happened they waived the extra fees. IL allows you to fix missed tolls online but MA doesn't.

tpgolfer48 May 12, 15 9:46 am

It gets worse - Hertz EZ Pass
 
I found a new gotcha recently. Hertz has a toll transponder in their vehicles in a little drawer attached to the windshield. Pull out the drawer, go through a toll, and all automatic....except...

Once you use it at the first toll, Hertz is charging a DAILY fee for the convenience. So if, and in my case, you use it on your first day for a $3.50 toll leaving Boston Logan, and have the car for a week - your $3.50 toll ends up costing something like $25 - because Hertz charge the fee every day, used or not, plus the actual tolls.

When I complained to Hertz they first claimed this was an external 3rd party fee and there was nothing they could do. When I posted my displeasure on Twitter....they contacted me immediately and credited the fee as a "one time accommodation". Never used the transponder again.

RSSrsvp May 12, 15 10:08 am

According to the Hertz site they offer PlatePass to use on the FasTrak system for the Greater San Francisco Bay Area Bridges.

You will be charged a $4.95 service fee for each day of the rental including any days on which PlatePass® is not used, up to a maximum of $24.75 per rental, plus incurred tolls at the Toll Authority's cash toll rate or highest undiscounted toll rate.

What a ripoff! :td:

PS, PlatePass is owned by American Traffic Solutions who is responsible for most of the red light and speed cameras in the country.

Wtendler May 12, 15 10:12 am

Florida rental cars and tolls
 
The toll "surprise" hit me on a trip to Ft. Lauderdale/Miami in April. The freeway is often terrible so the toll lanes are the only sane choice and there is no way to pay in cash. I rented a car for 5 days. I used the toll road once on the way to Miami. The posted toll was $2.75. The Budget car had a transponder so no problem.

Bill from Budget: $19.00
Once I used the transponder one time for a toll it triggered a $3.25/day fee so the toll charged was $2.50 but I then paid $3.25 x 5 days.

gabrielbf May 12, 15 10:55 am

I disagree. Why is this Florida's fault? They have moved their toll roads to a cashless system, which has already proved its benefits all over the world, I would do the same. The world has evolved and people (including tourists) should too.

This sound more like private companies (car rental) charging whatever they want for the "convenience", and they can get away with it because there are other options, they are not forcing anyone. Informed tourists can purchase a transponder in advance. They can purchase it as soon as they leave the airport. They can avoid toll roads. Or they can CHOOSE to pay (Unreasonably high fees) for the "convenience" of not doing any of the above.

If tourists (and locals renting a car) end up paying because they did not know, it's not anyone's fault but theirs, much like any other tourist making wrong decisions in unknown places because they did not do their homework.

RSSrsvp May 12, 15 11:14 am

American Traffic Solutions and the car rental companies are cleaning up with these exorbitant charges. They have some nerve charging you for the days when you aren't even using the passes. There should be an initial one time (reasonable) charge for using the passes plus whatever the tolls amount to.

MMB568 May 12, 15 12:03 pm

Australia seems to have figured it out- i rented a car from Avis in Brisbane and asked at the counter when I rented it. They told me that Avis will automatically pass back the tolls, no additional fee since they already have the transponder on the car. Only paid about A$12 over three days (a couple of bridge crossings).

dliesse May 12, 15 1:12 pm

I have to agree that it would be nice if the various transponder systems would work with each other. When I moved from Chicago to Seattle I kept my I-Pass transponder (which, of course, promptly needed to be replaced by a newer model -- talk about inconvenience!), but when they introduced the transponders around here they were incompletely incompatible with any other system. When I commented negatively about that, the response was, in effect, "too bad, so sad."

Notes for anyone visiting the Seattle area:

The 520 bridge across Lake Washington is completely automated. If you don't have a transponder then they use the license plate cameras, which result in a higher toll.

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge, between Tacoma and Gig Harbor, is toll-free northbound and has ever-increasing tolls southbound. Cash is still accepted. Transponders have the lowest toll, cash is a little higher, license plate cameras are a little higher than that.

Some of the freeways around here have HOV lanes that are available as toll lanes, as well. If you have a transponder and qualify for HOV status (usually just 2 people here), BE SURE you cover up the transponder or you will be billed for your free trip.

netopia May 12, 15 1:28 pm


Originally Posted by RSSrsvp (Post 24804437)
There should be an initial one time (reasonable) charge for using the passes plus whatever the tolls amount to.

Silvercar doesn't even charge the one-time fee - they just charge you for the tolls incurred. Unfortunately, they're only in 8 cities so far.

I don't know about Florida's cashless tolls, but the Golden Gate Bridge can be prepaid online (you just enter your plate number) so you can avoid being screwed by the rental car company. The other bridges in the Bay Area all take cash, but at certain times having an electronic toll tag saves you a good half hour.

fairviewroad May 12, 15 5:16 pm

So what would people think about introducing the idea of government regulation to this discussion: For example, rental car agencies in states that have cashless toll facilities are required to include a transponder in each rental car, or in cases of license plate readers, to charge drivers only for the toll. Variation: A small "handling" fee is permitted, but capped at a reasonable amount and only for days that toll facilities are actually used.

Or...continue with the current free-for-all system wherein car rental companies can seemingly charge whatever they like? Pure capitalism, of course. If the market wants lower fees, the market will decide, right?

JapanFlyerT May 12, 15 6:12 pm

Not just in the US
 
In Queensland the Gold Coast-Sunshine Coast motorway records your number plate and gives you 3 days to go online and register to pay the toll.

I did so, however the rental car I had automatically charged me for a toll plus penalties for what turned out to be a toll that was incurred during the previous renter's period on the same road.

It pays to be vigilant.

nsx May 12, 15 6:46 pm


Originally Posted by fairviewroad (Post 24806378)
So what would people think about introducing the idea of government regulation to this discussion

I think some sort of federal regulation (car rental is often interstate commerce) is a certainty if the current situation persists more than another year or so. I hope the market provides a solution before regulations impose a virtual freeze on innovation.

Some company needs to create a universal transponder and back it with a low-fee service. Buy one unit for home and away. Take it with you and you pay the tolls with no participation by the car rental company.

fiveninerzero May 12, 15 7:21 pm


Originally Posted by nsx (Post 24781346)
There is a business opportunity here for a GPS app that avoids routing onto cashless toll roads.

In Waze, it's simple. You merely uncheck the toll road option in the settings. Worked like a champ during a recent trip to Miami.

kxc262 May 12, 15 7:45 pm

For the Golden Gate bridge, you can prepay your tolls.
http://goldengate.org/tolls/tollpaymentoptions.php

I would recommend this for ALL rental car users crossing the Golden Gate Bridge to avoid silly surcharges.

nsx May 12, 15 8:30 pm


Originally Posted by fiveninerzero (Post 24806845)
In Waze, it's simple. You merely uncheck the toll road option in the settings. Worked like a champ during a recent trip to Miami.

It would be much better to avoid ONLY CASHLESS toll roads and allow routing onto toll roads which accept cash.

710 77345 May 12, 15 8:39 pm

Had exactly this problem in NYC - was hit by a c.$25 Plate Pass fee for an unavoidable toll that was about a dollar but couldn't be paid online after the event.

Canarsie May 13, 15 5:37 am


Originally Posted by kxc262 (Post 24806943)
For the Golden Gate bridge, you can prepay your tolls.
http://goldengate.org/tolls/tollpaymentoptions.php

I would recommend this for ALL rental car users crossing the Golden Gate Bridge to avoid silly surcharges.

...and what if plans change where one does not use the Golden Gate Bridge after all —.especially for motorists visiting from out of town?

golfaholicdoc May 13, 15 7:44 am


Originally Posted by IAHtraveler (Post 24783465)
Annoying to say the least. One way I've found to reduce the burden: grab a toll transponder. I have one for EZPass that never leaves my work bag. When in FL last month, I also picked up one of their transponders at Publix for use in my trips there. Now if only everyone took EZPass! Or they had an app for that...

Hi, if possible let me know WHICH roads from MIami to West Palm Beach in FL, HASN'T cash toll boots.Thanks.

MADPhil May 13, 15 7:51 am


Originally Posted by Canarsie (Post 24808077)
...and what if plans change where one does not use the Golden Gate Bridge after all —.especially for motorists visiting from out of town?

What I did was to set up an account for the rental car - and then remove it before returning it. Slightly more trouble but you only pay for what you use.


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