Archive for Saturday, January 26, 2013

Letter: Human Toll

January 26, 2013


To the editor:

Just recently, headed west on the Kansas Turnpike, I turned off at the East Lawrence exit. As a Kansas University grad, there’s a bit of nostalgic pleasure in taking that turnoff. But that pleasure was soon to be dissipated.

Too late, I saw I had turned into a toll gate marked “self-pay.” Ah, those KTA “innovations”! With two cars waiting behind me, I found a “self-check-out” lane — on the turnpike! Some grocery stores have eliminated the self-check-out, because of citizen frustration with negotiating the machinery — and they have bar codes!

As the cars behind waited impatiently, I dug through my pockets seeking exact change and, in the process, had to decipher where to put the bills, what slot the ticket went into and what to do when I did not have exact change. Finally I dug two dollars from my billfold for the $1.65 fare, and felt too rushed to wait for the change. No friendly human face was there to expedite matters or apply the personal touch.  

Finally, I escaped the toll booth, feeling the toll taken on me was far more than the toll taken from me. My first thought was: “What *@#& genius thought this up?”

KTA says this is all done for efficiency and no one has been laid off.  But as they admit, worker hours once available have been reduced “to keep tolls low.” I respectfully suggest they can find a way to “keep tolls low” (especially after they were recently increased) besides this depersonalizing and counter-intuitive ‘efficiency’ measure.


Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 2 months ago

$9 or $10 per hour, or maybe more, + fringe benefits, to collect your $1.65 toll, yes, that makes a lot of economic sense. I think it was probably an economist that thought up the idea. It was another economist that thought up the idea to have the toll bar rise by itself when you pull the ticket out of the dispenser when you enter the turnpike, instead of having another $9 or $10 + fringe benefits employee pull a lever or push a button to make that happen.

Progress. Get used to it. Maybe you should get a K-Tag.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 2 months ago

Next time you're planning a trip on the turnpike, you might stop by the bank and pick up a few of the Susan B. Anthony or the gold colored Sacagawea dollars, all of the banks have them, and they are accepted at all of the toll booths, both automated and those with a person working them. Just toss them in the basket, they're a dollar. Maybe that will make things easier for you.

And by the way, if you pay with a $5 or larger bill, don't be surprised if you get one in change.

weeslicket 4 years, 2 months ago

right. because there was only ONE car at the toll booth that particular hour.

and also. everyone in america (or even canada) has a k-tag. brilliant.

Larry Sturm 4 years, 2 months ago

Two trips to the Denver airport last summer I25 got me a $36 bill in the mail the next month with no explanation about toll cameras.

beerbaron03 4 years, 1 month ago

A.) That's I470, not I25 B.) There are signs everywhere saying that it's a toll road.

Ken Lassman 4 years, 2 months ago

Um, isn't one of the toll ramp booths always manned? The only time I've seen both of the booths unoccupied is because the tollworker had to excuse him or herself for a few minutes, if you know what I mean.

The toll booths also take credit cards now, too, so unless you're maxed out, you can always swipe a card.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 2 months ago

Yes, there is one toll booth with a person operating it at all locations except at the Eudora exit, which is entirely automated. But, if you have a problem there, you can push a button, and talk to a live operator for help, as you can do at any of the automated locations.

Enlightenment 4 years, 2 months ago

I would like to commend the toll booth operators, especially those at the Lawrence exits. It is such a pleasure to see their smiling faces coupled with a great attitude, which always makes my experience on the turnpike a pleasant one.

verity 4 years, 2 months ago

While I understand the economies, unfortunately the credit card swipes don't always work. I exited the turnpike at a country exit where there is only one booth. When my card didn't work, I pressed the help button. The voice suggested that I get out of my vehicle and use the upper swipe for trucks (hadn't even realized there was one). By that time several cars were behind me so I couldn't back up and there was no way I could open my door against the booth and get out. If I hadn't found a five dollar bill in my purse, I wonder if they would have remotely let me go through free?

While it may not be economical, I confess that I am always happy to see a smiling face at the booth. As far as getting a K-Tag, many of us use the turnpike too infrequently to make that feasible.

Bruce Bertsch 4 years, 2 months ago

The K-Tag is highly useful regardless of the frequency that you travel on the KTA.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 2 months ago

Didn't the writer of the letter to the editor realize that he was going to have to pay a toll, and was unprepared to do so? That's what his complaint is all about - he was surprised that he had to pay a toll, and was unprepared to do so.

Pay with bills, pay with change, with extra is fine since the machines give change, pay with a credit or debit card, or pay with a K-Tag, there are many ways to pay. But everybody pays.

When I get in my car to go somewhere on the turnpike, which I do quite often, one of the first things I do is get the money and keep it handy.

I'm on the turnpike frequently enough to make a K-Tag worthwhile. But there's a problem, and it's a big bad one. The new ones need to be mounted on the windshield, and on my car (Ford Windstar), it needs to be mounted in the middle of the windshield, and very, very low from the top. I measured it, and I could hardly believe it. The problem has to do with the way the rear view mirror is mounted on the Ford Windstar. The post for it is mounted very low on the windshield, and the K-Tag is to be mounted an inch or so below that.

Since the K-Tag is not transparent, I would have a huge blind spot in exactly the center of my vision in the middle of the windshield, and that's not acceptable to me.

(Of course, my height is part of the problem.)

rtwngr 4 years, 2 months ago

You can place the K-Tag very low on your windshield too. Just above where the dashboard and windshield meet. The scanner on the K-Tag lane will pick it up. As long as it is reasonably centered on the windshield you're good to go. The difference in actual "height" is less than 15 inches.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 1 month ago

I should maybe discuss it with the turnpike people. It certainly looked to me like it could go above the post for the rear view mirror, there's plenty of room for it there. The strange thing about the Ford Windstar rear view mirror post is that it goes way downward to meet the windshield, so I think placing it above the rear view mirror would be the best option.

I just now went out with a tape measure to check exactly how much room there is above the rear view mirror post, and I could hardly believe what I measured. ABOVE the rear view mirror post, there is OVER six inches of clearance!

parrothead8 4 years, 2 months ago

I never thought it was so difficult to "decipher where to put the bills."

windjammer 4 years, 2 months ago

A KU grad and you had trouble getting off the pike. My, my, my what a waste of four years or was it eight years?

Trumbull 4 years, 1 month ago

It is a shame that things are getting so de-personalized these days. But I guess we all must do our best to keep up with the times.

One word however about economies and efficiencies however. Just because there may not be a person manning the booth, don't let that fool you into thinking it is really more efficient. Behind the scenes you have computer programmers, program support, program licenses, computer bugs, and all sorts of things that drain money and time.

Sometimes the "old fashioned" way is really always going to be the best. I've seen a lot of money thrown down the IT drain in my time.

pace 4 years, 1 month ago

Oh what a tragic story. Is there no justice? How dare the powers change the pike, where is the safety net fot miserable victims like this.

mom_of_three 4 years, 1 month ago

Ron made a good point. The letter writer was just unprepared to pay the toll - period. He would have had to dig the money out of his pocket regardless of who he was paying. And the automated system also gives change, takes credit cards, all the same thing that a real person will do.
I have used the automated system a few times, and its not that hard. I do try to use the booth with a person if one is available. But the key is to be prepared to pay no matter which lane you are in.

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