New rule on E-ZPass transponders
Reader Larry Goldberg sent in a good question, and I learned something about Maryland Transportation Authority policy I hadn't known before. Said Goldberg:
Recently you wrote about exchanging your old EZ Pass transponder before the July 1 start of new EZ Pass fees. This past Thursday I took a ride to the Fort McHenry Tunnel EZ Pass office to exchange my seven year old EZ Pass transponder and I was informed that since the transponder tested okay no exchange would be allowed. When I mentioned reading an article in the paper stating the transponder could be exchanged prior to the $21 fee being charged the clerk informed me that someone else had mentioned the same article, but the supervisor at the office had prohibited any exchanges for 'live' transponders. The clerk told me however that exchanges of older transponders would be grandfathered in and not be charged a fee when they no longer worked. I will believe that when I see it as somehow I doubt that will be the case.
That guidance sounded fishy to me, too, so I asked the press office at the authority what the real story was. According to spokeswoman Kelly Melhem, there is no "grandfather" policy. She said that if your transponder gives up the ghost after June 30, you will have to pay $21 for a new one -- unless it's less than 4 years old.
Of course, if your transponder dies before the new policy takes effect July 1, you're in luck. You get a free replacement without cost. But the authority isn't letting customers hasten the demise of their units.
So in effect, the new transponders will have a four-year warranty even though their anticipated life is about seven years. Melhem didn't know the rationale for the four-year cutoff but is seeking the answer. Stay tuned.
One observation: The authority needs to do a better job of getting out the word on its policies to the people working the desks at its E-ZPass centers. This isn't the first time I've heard complaints about misinformation being dispensed by authority employees.
Reminder: If you do have multiple transponders on multiple accounts, you can save money by consolidating them onto a single account before the new $1.50-a-month fee goes into effect July 1. A smart move would be to keep your newest transponder and turn in the older ones for a free and fresh one. You've got a little more than two months to do so.