Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Saving on Tolls

Traveling to Disney for family vacations and Thanksgiving family gatherings with relatives in Central Florida, I have looked around the highway with envy as SunPass card holders zip through designated pre-paid lanes, while we've been stuck in slow-moving toll plazas. My sister, who lives and works in Central Florida, especially appreciates the convenience of a SunPass in a region where the roads are clogged with tourists.

A SunPass works like a pre-paid phone card under a program operated by the Florida Department of Transportation. As a prepaid toll card, the SunPass is valid at toll plazas and turnpike exits throughout the state. What's more, SunPass customers can now use the pre-paid card to pay for parking at Orlando International Airport. The program is expected to expand to other major airports in Florida.

It also saves time as SunPass lanes are faster moving than other lanes at toll booths. Additionally, Sun Pass holders typically pay 25 cents less than cash customers at toll plazas. A friend of mine--Lynn Friedman gave her elderly father a SunPass last year as a Father's Day present. With a SunPass, her dad doesn't have to fumble for change on toll roads and Lynn has linked his SunPass to her credit card and automatically re-fuels the card when the balance gets low.

Different types of pre-paid toll cards for bridges and roads are available throughout the country.

Here's a list from Wikipedia

* C-Pass in Key Biscayne, Florida
* Cruise Card in Atlanta, Georgia
* E-PASS in Orlando, Florida (connects with SunPass)
* EXpressToll in Colorado
* E-ZPass in the U.S. Northeast
* Fast Lane in Massachusetts (Interoperable with E-ZPass)
* Fastrak in California
* I-Pass in Illinois (Interoperable with E-ZPass)
* K-Tag in Kansas
* LeeWay in Lee County, Florida (Interoperable with SunPass)
* E-ZPass in Maine (Interoperable with E-ZPass)
* MnPass in Minnesota
* O-PASS in Osceola County, Florida (Interoperable with SunPass)
* PalmettoPass in South Carolina
* Pikepass in Oklahoma
* Smart Tag in Virginia (Interoperable with E-ZPass)
* SunPass in Florida
* TollTag in Texas (Interoperable with TxTAG)
* EZ TAG in Texas (Interoperable with TxTAG)
* TxTAG in Texas

There's also a program in the New York metro area.
The savings adds up. For example, a cash-paying driver traveling from Sunrise Boulevard in Broward County to the Disney World exit on the turnpike would pay $15.70 in tolls. For that same trip, a SunPass holder pays $12.40, for a round-trip savings of $6.60.

Those figures don't include the intangible cost of time and gas consumed while idling in long toll lines.

SunPass toll cards are sold at Publix and CVS. The program includes an ''auto-replenishment'' option, in which your credit card is periodically billed when the balance of your card diminishes. You must pay a minimum of $25 to open a SunPass account, along with a one-time fee of $25 for the ''transponder'' device, which is attached to your windshield and enables your car to electronically communicate with the toll gate. As you pass through a toll plaza, the fare is electronically deducted from the balance on your Sun Pass.

''SunPass customers pay less than cash customers because the SunPass PrePaid Toll Program is a more efficient method of collecting tolls,'' according to a statement from the prepaid program.

For business travelers and employees on company errands, the program provides free access to monthly activity statements. By logging onto your online account at, you can download and print your toll activity statement for no extra fee.

There are, however, additional fees if you or your business ask for mailed hard copies of your toll activities.

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