Get in the FAST LANE!!

Back Up at the Tolls via drivinglikeass.com

Every time I drive through a toll in Massachusetts and see cars backed up on the highway, I think to myself – Why doesn’t everyone have a Fast Lane pass?  I’ve lived in Massachusetts my entire life and have always utilized the Mass Pike for getting myself in and out of the city.  It always boggles my mind that people line up in the “cash” line and wait to pay their toll.  I keep wondering if these people really have the extra 5, 10 or 20 minutes to sit and wait for the toll booth operator to collect their money?

It might take less time to go to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation website and click on the top link that says “Open A New Fast Lane Account” and sign up for a Fast Lane account, than to wait in line to pay cash for your toll.  Best of all its FREE to get a transponder … you don’t find too many things in this day and age that are FREE, totally FREE!

The benefits of having a Fast Lane pass are:

1. You never ever have to stop your car at a toll booth again:  As long as you reduce your speed to about 15 miles per hour, the toll booth transmitter will be able to read the transponder that is affixed to the windshield on your car and will automatically deduct the funds from your account.  The most popular account that is offered is a credit card system that is linked to the transponder.  You preload a specified amount of money into your account and when your balance dips below a predetermined amount, it automatically replenishes a specified amount from your credit card.

2. Additional discounts just for having a Fast Lane account:  You automatically receive a $0.25 cent toll discount at the Allston-Brighton tolls (Exit 17 outbound/Exit 20 inbound) and a $0.50 cent discount at the Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels.  Also if you are resident of Charlestown and/or Chelsea, look into the Tobin Bridge Resident Permit Discount Program for a discount on the tunnel.  Or a resident of East Boston, South Boston and/or the North End, look into the Annual Tunnel Communities Resident Program for discounted tolls on the Sumner/Callahan and Ted Williams Tunnels.  Certain restrictions may apply, but it would be worth your time to read through the policies if you are residents of those areas.

3. You may also be eligible for a credit on your Massachusetts individual tax return for a commuter deduction by using the Fast Lane service assuming that you are not reimbursed for your expenses through your employer.  If you are a single individual (or if your tax status is married filing separately or head of household), the maximum amount of the deduction is $750/year.  The way to calculate the commuter deduction credit is that you are responsible for the first $150 in tolls.  Anything that exceeds the $150 up to a maximum of $900 in tolls will give you the maximum deduction of $750 in a commuter deduction credit.  The credit is a dollar-for-dollar deduction (ie. $900-$150 = $750).  In addition, if you are a married and file a joint return with your spouse, you are both able to take the deduction up to the maximum of $750 each!  You will be able to print out the total amount of your commuter deduction off of the Fast Lane website as of the end of the year.

4. You can use your Fast Lane account in other states! Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maine, New Hampshire, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Rhode Island for now all accept the Fast Lane pass – do I sense a road trip in your future??  The thought of never having to scrape some change together to visit another state is exciting.  You never have to worry about carrying correct change on you again!

Whether you are from Massachusetts or not, I bet there is a sort of Fast Lane service that is provided by your state’s Department of Transportation.  Would you use the transponder system to virtually never have to stop at a toll again?  Please share your thoughts with me in the comment section below!

7 Responses to “Get in the FAST LANE!!”

  1. I have to admit that I used to be one of those people who waited in the “cash” line for two reasons: (1) I didn’t travel toll roads all that much, and (2) I was just lazy. I finally got a transponder and it has saved me so much hassle, especially now that I have some wonderful friends that live in Allston and I’m frequently traveling on the pike to their place! It is the best feeling to glide past all those people waiting in the cash line and go right through the toll. I even used it when I had to go to a wedding in NJ, because it works on all the EasyPass systems too. It really doesn’t make any sense not to have one, even if you don’t use it that much. Once again, great advice!

  2. I could not agree more. Drivers without Fast Lane boggle my mind! Even more mind boggling are the tremendous amount of driver’s coming east bound on the pike who do not understand what “Left Lane Fast Lane ONLY” means. I suppose the two go hand in hand.

    Some other Fast Lane advantages/improvements, 1. In New York state just outside western MA they have “slow” and “fast” fast lane booths. The slow lane decreases speed to approx. 15 mph and the fast lane to around 50 mph (if memory serves), 2. On I-95 in New Hampshire the left lanes in both directions they have installed separate lanes that act as a sort of flyover. You do not need to slow down at all and your fast lane account is charged for the toll. Time is money right?

  3. For a long time I did not have the EZ-Pass/Fast Pass because I wasn’t driving enough to think I needed one – I had trips that were few and far between or not on very congested routes, so waiting in line to pay was nothing. This was until about 3 years ago when I was coerced last minute to travel from Boston to New York for Thanksgiving. I hadn’t traveled home for Thanksgiving in years and this trip confirmed why. The traffic was ungodly, but it was the waiting in line for the tolls that made me almost lose my mind!

    After that trip I immediately ordered my Fast Pass. It not only saves me time, but money, both which we all know are very valuable!

    With the economy the way it has been we can all use to save a few dollars and cents here and there because it really does add up and the Fast Pass/EZ-Pass really helps with that. Living in NY now, they raised the tolls for the New Year, but the increase for users of the EZ-Pass is not as much. For example: if you are using a major crossing like The RFK Bridge, Queens Midtown Tunnel, Throgs Neck, etc it’s $6.50 one way if you use cash, but with the EZ-Pass it’s $4.80 – you save $1.70 one way and $3.40 round trip.
    It’s a no-brainer for NY residents.

    And as CPA In Progress mentioned there are improvements being made with slower/faster access lanes to keep traffic flowing. In NY and NJ we have way more of the express lanes for EZ-Pass users (like the one on I-95 in NH) where you just keep cruising – no slowing down or going through a toll booth.

    Also, while I love my EZ-Pass for its convenience and for it’s savings, it’s inevitably going to be on most roads in the future, which makes me worry about the jobs that will be lost if we totally go to the EZ-Pass, which means our discounts on tolls will definitely stop and we’ll all be paying the same rate again.

    I’m going to enjoy it while I can :)

  4. Couldn’t agree any more with the Financialite. It’s free money! I have a fast lane pass and maybe use it once or twice a month only, but it’s simply getting yourself in the mode to save money and time that is the real payoff of learning to utilize such opportunities when you come across them.

  5. I love your blog! Honestly, one of the best new financial blogs out there. This is one of the best posts too. Free money and really good points.

  6. Well this article has finally gotten me to sign up for a transponder. I too travel our toll roads infrequently, and never thought it was worth the effort to sign up.

    I recently drove to NYC for the first time in years (the last time I did so the tolls were $3) and plan to so so again this year. The details provided by Financial Amateur on the discounts afforded to Fast Lane/EZPass users were compelling.

  7. Thanks Financialite! These are great ideas. I resisted getting Fast Lane for an embarrassingly long time, though back then you had to pay $45 for the transponder. Still, even with infrequent use, I save so much time and aggravation that it quickly makes sense. I agree that it’s baffling to watch all the people waiting in line for 10 minutes when it only takes two minutes to never wait in line again.

    Recently, though, I happily waited in line even though I was running late, I had my pass, and the express lane was wide open. You can read ‘Smile’ here: http://improvandy.com/elevator-pitch/smile

    Happy Networking!
    Your Elevator Pitch Coach recently posted..Smile

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