Nearly 5,000 Drop E-zpass Accounts

Md. Began Charging $1.50-a-month Fee In July

August 22, 2009|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,michael.dresser@baltsun.com

Almost 5,000 E-ZPass subscribers in the state closed their accounts last month after a $1.50-a-month fee took effect, the Maryland Transportation Authority said Friday.

The 4,990 customers who dropped their accounts in July were the most for any month since the authority voted in January to impose the fees.

According to spokeswoman Teri Moss, Maryland continues to have 557,000 active subscribers to the electronic toll collection plan. She disputed published reports that 19,000 customers had filed requests to drop their accounts, saying that was a tally of inquiries about possible cancellation.

Before the fee took effect July 1, the authority disclosed that 72,000 of its account holders had not used their transponders in the past 12 months.

In July, Moss said, about 2,000 of those inactive account holders dropped E-ZPass.

Tom Gugel, the authority's deputy director of E-ZPass operations, said it costs the state $2.25 a month to keep an account open, whether it is used heavily or not at all.

Authority officials have said that with the fee in place, it makes sense for inactive users to drop the service.

"They saved money; we saved money also," Gugel said.

Moss said the nearly 5,000 July closings were offset by 2,800 accounts that were opened last month - for a net loss of 2,200 subscribers.

According to the authority, the average number of closings before the fee was about 1,000 a month. They said it would be reasonable to suppose that about 4,000 of the closings were related to the fee.

"We expected quite a few accounts to go away," Gugel said.

Closings this year remained at typical levels until late spring, when they increased to 1,600 in May and 3,000 in June, the authority said.

Officials said they were not surprised by the response to the fee, which they said was intended to recover some of the costs of maintaining accounts.

Gugel said the use of E-ZPass transponders at Maryland toll facilities has continued to increase and that the program's effectiveness has been maintained.

According to Moss, there has been no increase in congestion because most who dropped their accounts were probably infrequent users of toll facilities.

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