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What Is a Toll?

Tolls are commonly paid for passage on some roadways.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 June 2014
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A toll is another term for payment. It’s often associated with payments made on roads, bridges or ferries that carry cars. Essentially it is a payment for passage. An additional use of the term may be seen in things like phone calls, where the toll is collected for used of the phone line; in this form some people do refer to calls that cost money as toll calls.

There are many toll roads throughout the world, and some of the reasons these are established is to pay for road maintenance or to fund various transportation projects that a region might have, such as paying for local bus service over a road. In this sense this is a per-use tax and only affects the people who use the road, rather than distributing that tax to a general population. Taxes can be a bit more complicated and some regions assess taxes on all residents to partially fund existence of all roads and transportation. Yet principally, the tolls collected pay for most of the road’s costs and upkeep, and they may be looked on with greater favor.

Many different kinds of pay-for-use roads exist and they may have different means for collecting money. Some employ more than one system. People who regularly use the road may sometimes buy stickers or decals that are read electronically and that automatically deduct money from a person’s account.

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Alternately, some people have passes they buy that are time sensitive, allowing faster passage through a checkpoint once an attendant views them. Many roads and bridges additionally observe the time-honored practice of taking money from each driver by means of a human attendant. Sometimes heavily congested roads give discounts or free passage when drivers have a certain number of passengers, since carpooling results in fewer cars on the road.

Tolls may be collected at different times. Sometimes people must pay when entering the road from either side. Others only collect money on one side, and with some skillful navigating, it could be possible to avoid multiple tolls. This might also require driving far out of the way, which could end up costing more in fuel and time. The two-way toll road may eliminate ability to accomplish this in any case.

Prices to use a road or bridge can vary, with some costing just one or two US Dollars (USD) and others more than five or $10 USD or its translated equivalent. Roads with high usage and maintenance costs may have more expensive tolls. In all cases, prices are subject to change.

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