I’m all for progress and efficiency, but I’m not ready to give up all human interaction to get it. That’s why I don’t have an EZ Pass transponder in my car and I don’t want one. I like exchanging a word or two with the toll workers when I pull into the cash only toll lane. A “Good Morning, how are you today?” is nice in my otherwise hurry up and get there day. As impatient as I am—it has somehow never bothered me to pause to pay. And despite what most people might assume I’ve rarely had to wait in a line, let alone a long line.
But, in just a few months all the toll booths and the toll workers will be gone. Replaced by all electronic tolling located in spots along the Mass Pike. Electronic tolling was first implemented two years ago on the Tobin Bridge with a lot of enthusiasm from MassDot Secretary and CEO Richard Davey. Davey called the new system ‘innovative’ and highlighted, “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by cutting congestion and the time spent idling at the cash booth.” If you have a transponder, you’re all set. But, then there is me and the holdouts. More than 25 percent of us still pay cash only and don’t have EZ Pass. We are supposed to switch to the automated system of billing and tracking.
The tracking is one of the reasons I’ve long avoided getting a transponder. I don’t like the idea of having my movements monitored while driving around. I know there is plenty of other surveillance and cyber tracking going on in my life, but this feels especially intrusive.
Before you judge, I’m not a Luddite, I love what technology has made possible in my everyday life. And while I may not be an early adopter, I’m also not tech averse. I delight in my apps, I have thumb fatigue from texting, and I’m easily seduced by hours of wandering the internet (especially when I’m supposed to be doing something else).
As MIT Professor Sherry Turkle points out, “We are shaped by our tools.” What does it mean that the leading tools of our times are geared toward no human interaction? There used to be a person at the parking window of one of my favorite movie theaters. And I’ve yet to get good service from self service at the grocery and pharmacy where even the smallest blip will foul up the system.
Of course, none of this matters when the bottom line is at stake. The Department of Transportation says electronic tolling will save 50 million a year on the Pike. Plus, there is the promise of extra revenue collected from non transponder drivers—a surcharge to cover the cost of photographing the driver’s license and sending a bill. That’ll plug a lot of holes in the state’s projected 320-million-dollar deficit.
But, I’m pretty certain I won’t have an EZ Pass by the time the booths are dismantled this summer. And I don’t care if you whiz right past me.