With new Narrows Bridge tolls in the works, there has been some
debate from commenters about whether drivers who get transponders
should receive a discount. Some argue that just being able to
bypass the toll booths should be incentive enough. Others say buses
and ferries have frequent-user discounts and it should be the same
with bridge users.
I’m not going to take one side or the other but will try to provide some perspective.
I get the impression that some drivers think that discounts were always part of the plan and it’s their right to keep them. That’s not true. It wasn’t until early 2007 that the Transportation Commission considered discounts and not until May that it approved them. They were only intended to be used the first year to make sure enough transponders were issued to keep toll-booth traffic from backing onto the highway. There were no promises beyond that.
There might be a good argument that transponder users should get a discount because they’re less expensive to process. That’s a hard thing to pin down, but Greg Selstead, the state’s director of tolling operations, said he’d provide a ballpark figure at the citizens advisory committee meeting on Thursday.
The sheer numbers of transponder users will make it hard to cut them a deal. Because 75 percent of bridge users have them, the other 25 percent would pay a big hike to make up for the discount. Selstead said to give a discount of 25 cents off a $3 toll, toll-booth users would have to pay $4. And that would raise the same revenue as everybody paying $3.