To the editor:
After reading your Sept. 12 article, “Multi-trip toll deal cut short by RITBA,” I checked my E-ZPass account online, since I must have driven 40 times across the Sakonnet River Bridge since tolling began on Aug. 19.
Interestingly, my account has been charged for none of these trips, although I continue to be charged for trips over the Newport Bridge, where I display the transponder. Then I inquired of several friends who, as I do, keep their E-ZPass transponders at home or wrapped in foil between Portsmouth and Tiverton. Result? They haven’t been charged either for crossing the Sakonnet River Bridge.
This disputes dire warnings from the R.I. Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA) that “Leaving transponder behind or covering it doesn’t work …” This refers to the “Refuse to Use Your E-ZPass — Mail Me a Bill” campaign that has gained ground with commuters who refuse to roll over and accept tolls on a river crossing that has been gratis for centuries. “Refuse to Use” seeks to make collecting as difficult and expensive as possible for RITBA, an illegitimate agency created to shift the burden of maintenance from the Rhode Island citizenry who own the bridges to commuters of Newport County who are forced to use them daily.
It may be that “Refuse to Use” drivers who find their accounts debited anyway have failed to properly isolate their transponders. Dashboards today are plastic; hiding a transponder in the glove box doesn’t work because radio signals from the toll gantry penetrate it like thin air. However, just wrapping the unit in foil will silence it.
The strategy of David Darlington, RITBA’s chairman, has been one of shifting public messages: They’re not going to charge drivers without E-ZPass. Then they are. Then they’re not. Now they’ll get us by snapping our plate numbers. Of course, technology can do that, but at what cost? Don’t forget that RITBA doesn’t own the cameras and billing software; they contract for them. They’ve never told us how much they pay the contractor for every a motorist’s plate that’s snapped and account billed. Is it 10 cents? Twenty-five cents? Now they’re into a negative balance.
It appears that RITBA is feeling pressure from “Refuse to Use” and running scared.
What obfuscation will Mr. Darlington advance next week? For a clearer view of the issues, I choose to consult www.donttoll.com.