I lost count of how many times I had to pay tolls during our last east coast trip. While other vehicles were flying through the electronic toll lanes without stopping, I was waiting in line to pay cash. More often than not, there was some dialogue with the tollbooth attendant, who was trying to figure out whether to charge me as a passenger van, a 2-axle truck, or a motorhome (all different toll rates). When I got home, I looked into the idea of installing the small device that would let me become one of those lucky drivers who don’t stop at tollbooths.
As many commuters already know, electronic toll roads are becoming more common in the eastern U.S. and rely on a transponder system to record your vehicle as it passes through a toll plaza. There are websites for registering your vehicle and purchasing a transponder, which is mailed to you so that you can install it on the inside of your windshield. You are then billed electronically, typically at a discount from what you would pay if you had stopped and paid cash at the tollbooth.
Unfortunately, the two biggest players in the electronic toll system use transponders that are incompatible with each other:
• E-ZPass works for toll roads in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Maine; Kentucky is being added soon.
• SunPass works for toll roads in Florida and Georgia; soon to come are South Carolina, Alabama, and Texas.
Sandwiched in between these two regions, our North Carolina all-electronic toll road system is unique in that it detects both E-ZPass and SunPass transponders. Because we travel to states north and south of us, I was thinking that I might have to register our van with each system and install two transponders.
That’s when I learned about NC Quick Pass, which is a transponder compatible with both the E-ZPass and SunPass detection systems. Regardless of your state/province of residence, you can purchase the NC Quick Pass universal transponder online for $20. It installs with a couple of adhesive strips on your windshield near your rear view mirror. The registration process is simple and just requires a credit card to set up a pre-paid account that is automatically replenished as you are assessed tolls. No monthly fees are required.
That's it! In at least seventeen states, no more waiting in lines to pay at tollbooths, no more debate with the attendant, no more fumbling for the right change. I’m not usually so excited to pay a tax, but I do wish I had done this much sooner.