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Monday, December 11, 2006

Don't (E-Z)Pass Go!

You don't know what you've got until you lose it. And when it comes to your E-ZPass access, you won't know until you lose it.

Driving through the Union toll plaza on the Garden State Parkway Sunday, I could swear the friendly green light read: "Toll unpaid.'' Maybe the signal malfunctioned. So we tried again at the Bergen plaza -- with the same result. A quick call to the 800 number on the transponder was fruitless: "Call during regular business hours, Monday through Saturday.'' So we dug into our wallets and pockets for dollars and coins the rest of the trip to Westchester County and back, trying to forget how much it would cost us for being a scofflaw at those two parkway toll plazas.

Fumbling for all that currency reminded us of why we like the speed and convenience of E-ZPass. So why didn't ours work? A 7:05 a.m. call to the E-ZPass folks Monday brought somewhat assuring news: The transponder battery had worn out after 6 1/2 years. E-ZPass would send me a new one, for free, and an envelope to return the useless one. All within three to five days. And those unpaid tolls? The clerk said they usually note a transponder failure and forgo a citation, but if I do get one (or two) in the mail, just call the toll-free number and they'll credit us.

So that's how you learn that your friendly E-ZPass transponder has died. And they don't even send an obituary notice.

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