Toll collection costs on the Garden State Parkway
"If everyone lost only one minute of their time to pay each toll, the value of the time lost on the Parkway even calculated at minimum wage comes out to over $50 million annually".
How much do tolls cost us? Some costs are easy to add up, like $488 million for E-ZPass or all the salaries, overtime, benefits and pensions of the hundreds of toll collectors and NJ Highway Authority staff members. Then there are the costs of all the physical buildings and toll plazas needed for those employees. (See lists to follow)
Others are harder to estimate, but no less real. For example, how much is all the time lost waiting to pay tolls worth? Even a conservative estimate of losing just 1 minute per toll at minimum wage calculates to over $50 million per year - that's more than the Parkway spends on maintenance! Plus it even goes beyond the toll roads. Tolls are so cost prohibitive that many attempt to avoid them, which increases congestion on many secondary roads. It's so bad that NJ has even passed laws to try to keep trucks on the main roads.
Or how about the wear and tear on our cars? The webmaster estimates that tolls force about 1.5 million needless stops per day. If a set of brake pads are good for about 100,000 stops, that's roughly 10-20 sets of brakes worn out each day (by tolls) on the Parkway alone.
What is the value of safety? How much is the health and well being (and occasion life) worth of those who were in an accident only because someone put a concrete barrier across a high-speed highway? Plus what is the cost of the damage, repair, and increased insurance premiums? The webmaster receives hundreds of comments from people citing safety issues, plus a major fatal accident was the primary reason why Connecticut removed their tolls.
It's difficult to place a dollar figure on the pollution created by millions of needless stops, but how much is our air worth? In a state as desperate as NJ is to reduce pollution and keep traffic moving, why are tolls untouchable?
Or how much do errors and mistakes cost us? Even when E-ZPass wrongly accuses someone of skipping a toll, it still costs an innocent person a 44¢ stamp to fight it (plus the stamp it took to accuse the person in the first place, plus the stamp it's going to take to respond to them), plus all the time it takes to write and send those letters - that's much worse than the toll in question. Then there are the poor souls that get labeled "toll cheats" just for accidentally ending up in the wrong lane without a transponder, at which point there's nothing they can do except pay the fine. The time and effort (and cost) of fixing mistakes and fighting errors is often so great that many innocent people simply pay the fine. And don't forget, we would not need the entire system (cameras, fines department, police time, court costs, letters, postage, etc.) to catch, fight, and punish toll cheats if we didn't have tolls.
And finally there's the hardest one of all to put a value on - the aggravation of waiting in long lines to pay or getting an E-ZPass error fixed. What's stress worth?
There has got to be a better way. Fortunately, there is. It's called the gas tax, which suffers none of the above problems.
Toll Cost Facts
Below are lists compiled by CAT president Ray Neveil.
|Senior Debt (Note A)
|Pg. 30, Ann. Report
Star Ledger, 9/23/02
|Cost of E-ZPass penalty
letters over 3 years
Total cost (loss)
|Star Ledger, 9/20/02
Star Ledger, 9/20/02
|Contract to repair E-ZPass||
|Install Hi-Speed E-ZPass (est'd per plaza)||
|Asbury Park Press, 9/4/02|
|Rearrange all 220 toll lanes 4 times to eliminate E-ZPass lane confusion.||
|E-ZPass advertising costs (for one 6 week period)||
|Lynn Fleegel, NJ TPK|
|E-ZPass costs since 1992||
Note A - In 2001 principal payments were $23 million while interest payments were $31.7 million.
- It costs 13¢ to collect each 35¢ toll.
- Toll collection costs involve 80 different cost areas (...see list to follow).
- Toll collecting requires a force of 800 people.
- The Parkway Authority has 12 executives with annual salaries of up to $140,000, plus perks!
- The Parkway has a fully staffed Public Affairs Department.
- It takes 560 million toll collection transactions to collect tolls.
- Toll collecting requires the handling of 1.18 billion coins annually.
- Toll collecting is a 24 hour a day, 365 day a year operation - costs accrue accordingly!
- Toll collecting requires mechanical toll gates at about 100 locations!
- Toll collecting requires maintenance, janitorial service, heat, light, air conditioning, and security to 11 across-the-road barriers, 35 ramp barriers, 46 rest area buildings, and 1 headquarters.
- E-ZPass, under development since 1972, will require at least half a billion dollars to install.
- E-ZPass will require the construction of tunnels under toll lanes and concrete stanchions at each lane to protect collectors.
- E-ZPass, if installed, will require 42 new cost areas at an estimated annual operation cost of $62 million.
- Postage alone for E-ZPass billings will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- To pay for E-ZPass by fining toll violators will require 5,000 violators per day, or 1.8 million annually.
- Toll collecting since 1952 has caused the waste of millions of gallons of gasoline, cars have spewed tons of pollution into the air, have caused millions of hours of wasted time and caused an untold number of accidents - Connecticut stopped tolls after major fatalities.
- The Garden State Parkway Authority was formed in 1952 with the avowed purpose of building the Parkway, paying for it in 20 years, and then disbanding - this hasn't happened!
Toll Collecting Cost Areas
Do you really think tolls are a good way to pay for roads? Here is a list of some of the services you pay for. Remember, this is your tax dollars at work:
Collectors (about 450) and supervisors (about 100)
Wages & Salaries
Health, Hospitalization & Dental Benefits (Incl. dependents)
Uniforms (2 sets by season plus foul weather gear)
Executive salaries & health benefits, plus longevity pay, use of cars, etc.
Establishment & maintenance of personnel rules
Employment office costs
Labor relations costs
Work scheduling costs
Toll Related Signs (Of which there are hundreds!)
Design of signs
Planning by location
Lighting for signs
Building - Capital Expenses
Plaza Administration Buildings (12)
Toll Plazas (12)
Ramp Plazas (62 - 31 in each direction)
Ramp Plaza Employee Rest Area Buildings (62)
Building Expenses (Applies to all Buildings)
Planning (Location, Number of booths per location, etc.)
Power Washing (Toll Booths)
Utility Costs (Electricity, Oil, Gas, Water)
Security for Collected Tolls
Vaults for Storing collected tolls
Counting of coins
Armored Car Service
Special security procedures for tokens
Administration of bogus coin and slugs
Maintenance of warning lights and bells for unpaid tolls
Personnel to observe for non-paying motorists
State Police to apprehend non-paying motorists
Automatic Coin Collecting Equipment
Selection & Evaluation
Emergency procedures when power is lost
Traffic delays when equipment malfunctions
Selection & Evaluation
Maintenance (Gates are frequently knocked down)
Parts inventory to make repairs
Liability problems when gates malfunction and damage cars
Gates severely impede the traffic flow
Design a Unique Token
Maintain separate administration, audit and counting procedures
Tokens need separate accounting procedures due to differences in value
Cost of providing token in rolls
Auto Expenses (For toll collections supervisors)
Expense of auto purchase
Operating expenses (gas, oil, etc.)
Lobbyists and public relations personnel to promote and defend tolls
Noise barriers at toll barriers to reduce noise of exiting cars (e.g. Toms River barrier)
Legal Expenses (Liability cases, review contracts, personnel cases etc.)
Insurance expenses (Fire, Liability, etc.)
Electronic Toll Collecting
System design costs
Toll booth equipment costs (Est'd at $15,000 to $20,000 per booth)
Toll booth equipment installation costs (Extensive wiring required)
Purchase and housing for new centralized computers to operate electronic tolls
Purchase and housing for new computers for billing and collecting of tolls
Establish & house administrative force to set up and do billing & collecting
Cost of envelopes, postage & check clearing procedures for billing operation
Establish a force of technicians to service and repair computer equipment
Provide autos for technician repair force
Develop and provide training for new technicians
Establish & house a computer programming force
Train collection personnel on new electronic collection procedures
Provide new signs at toll booths for electronic tolls
Installation of sensors in autos to utilize electronic tolls
Support personnel for electronic equipment must be available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week
On October 9, 1985 Connecticut abruptly ended tolls due to the many fatalities caused by auto crashes at toll barriers. In New Jersey, and in deference to the need for attriting personnel on a reasonable basis, a toll phase-out over perhaps three year period should be considered, first by going to one way tolls followed by a gradual phase out of remaining barriers.
Currently the collection of tolls requires motorists to stop and pay a toll almost 500 million times a year, or about 1,360,000 times a day. Imagine the wear and tear! It's time to eliminate tolls!
- Ray Neveil