Last year the Massachusetts Turnpike shut down the toll booths that have existed since the highway was built and switched to a completely electronic toll system. Just over a year later, the toll booths have been torn down and replaced with open roads. Traffic has improved in some places, while others are just as snarled as ever, thanks to existing on- and off-ramps designed to bottleneck traffic where the toll booths used to be. One area you would think would not be snarled is the process of obtaining an E-ZPass, but it is.
I first got an E-ZPass through the Maine Turnpike Authority back when I lived there. It was a simple process. Though the website to administer your account was pretty clunky in the past, it has worked well for the past several years. I moved back to Massachusetts in 2011, and use the Mass Pike so rarely that I didn't bother switching to a local E-ZPass. But one of the changes to the new toll system is that out-of-state E-ZPasses get charged more than local ones, so it seems the time to change is here.
So I went to EZDriveMA.com to sign up. It's easy enough to open a new account for a private individual, as opposed to a business. But as I went through the sign-up process it would inevitably stall on one of the steps. Clicking "Next" wouldn't do a thing, and I would have to begin entering my information all over again. It just won't work. I tried it in Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer with the same results. I also tried it on my phone, but the mobile site doesn't even give you the option to sign up. You'd think that a 100 percent electronic toll collection system would allow you to sign up by electronic means, but that might make too much sense.
You can sign up in person at various locations. There are a handful of customer service centers located on the Mass Pike across the state. But if you don't drive the Pike regularly, it's rather out of the way. I'm certainly not going pay a toll to hop on the Pike at rush hour to sit in traffic for the privilege of giving them more money. Other locations include Registry of Motor Vehicles offices. We all know how prompt and efficient they are. You can also sign up at AAA locations, but only if you're a AAA member, as well as Herb Chambers car dealerships. No kickback there, I'm sure.
Why do they make it so difficult to get an E-ZPass? Don't they want you to make it easy for them to take your money? You would think so. But the pay-by-plate option, which scans your license plate and mails a bill to the owner for cars that don't have an E-ZPass, charges even more than the out-of-state E-ZPass rate I pay now. Somehow I don't think this is a coincidence.