The Great E-ZPass Fee Exodus
Remember the big hullabaloo about the $1.50 fee on E-ZPass accounts the Maryland Transportation Authority adopted in January? All those folks threatening to close their accounts and bring the system to its knees? Preliminary figures are in, and the rate of defection appears to bear out the authority's calculation that most E-ZPass users aren't going to flock to the slow lanes to save $18 a year.
According to the authority, account closures in the six months before the fee proposal averaged 642. In January, there were 796 account closures, 178 of them explicity in response to the new policy. In February, after the authority formally acted, there were 843 closures -- 195 because of the fee. In March the number of account closures rose to 996 but only 122 closures account-holders blamed the fees for their decision.
According to the authority, there were 542,000 active E-ZPass accounts in Maryland as of February. So if you go by the number of customers who actually attributed theiir defection to the fee, you get an attrition rate of about 0.1 percent. If you go by the difference from the average rate of account closings, the number soars to about 0.15 percent. The authority doesn't jknow whether those who canceled were frequent or sporadic users, but common sense suggests that the fee refugees are skewed in the direction of light users. Those are precisely the folks that the system has been losing money on by subsidizing their participation. Of course, there are still three months to go before the fees take effect in July.