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The toll booth is the nemesis of most long-distance auto travelers, especially in the chaotic Northeast Corridor of the United States. E-ZPass® is an attempt to keep traffic moving, simplify toll collection and cut back on the number of toll booth collectors needed. It is currently used in 13 states, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest, and the same technology works in all of them. The Ohio Turnpike is the latest to adopt E-ZPass®, planning installation in 2009.
E-ZPass® was born in the early 1990s to help ease congestion on some of the busiest roads in the nation -- the New York Thruway, the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Turnpike. Its first experimental use was at the Spring Valley toll plaza on the New York State Thruway on 3 August 1993. In four years, E-ZPass® had been installed all along that road.
The basic system offers drivers who frequently use toll roads the opportunity to set up a pre-paid account. An electronic tag is then mounted on the vehicle, each containing a computer chip that "talks" to a transponder antenna at one of the designated E-ZPass® lanes on a turnpike or at the entrance to a bridge or tunnel. That antenna will automatically register the vehicle's passing and deduct from the pre-paid account.
In an effort to encourage the use of this program, some agencies offer a discount on tolls to E-ZPass® customers or carpoolers. A person living close to an E-ZPass® toll facility who must use it frequently can also receive a discounted rate for that particular site. Some rental car companies have begun installing E-ZPass® transponders on their vehicles as a perk.
In the beginning, vehicles had to slow down almost to a stop in order for the antennae to connect with the attached tag. Within an enclosed toll booth, the safety considerations were obvious. In recent years, however, turnpikes and bridges have begun installing "express E-ZPass®" lanes on the outer perimeter of the toll booth structure, allowing vehicles to zip past with a minimal reduction in speed.
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