ALEXANDRIA — In the first month of the 95 Express Lanes, about 200,000 different drivers used them at some point, according to toll operator Transurban.
On average, about 37,000 trips are taken each week compared to about 45,000 on the 495 Express Lanes. No surprise says Transurban because the public was already familiar with the HOV Lanes.
“These are very early days. Our latest tally on the 495 Express Lanes were about 1.5 or 1.6 million unique customers out there. So this is a great number for us,” says Transurban spokesman Mike McGurk.
Slugging also brings a new element to the Express Lanes. About one-third of all trips during the week are HOV3+, compared to only 10 percent on the Capital Beltway.
“On the 95 corridor, you have a lot more folks that commute on that route day-in and day-out. It’s a bit easier. And I think those a lot of folks may have been more hungry for that toll free trip and encouraged to get that E-ZPass faster than the sporadic user on 495,” says McGurk.
Perhaps true, as Transurban reports that 95 percent of customers during the workweek have an E-ZPass or E-ZPass Flex. However, that does leave 5 percent without an E-ZPass or no E-ZPass linked to their license plates. That would equal about 1,850 people each week. McGurk acknowledges this means extra work for them, but they have the staff to do it.
There are ways to avoid being in the 5 percent.
First, mount your E-ZPass onto your front windshield under your rear-view mirror before you leave. Unlike a normal toll booth, leaving the transponder on the dashboard could mean it won’t be read.
Second, link your license plate to the account. If your E-ZPass is not read, Transurban will look for an E-ZPass account connected to the license plate and it will automatically deduct the money from your account.
Third, keep your credit card updated at all times. Most customers who contact WTOP Ticketbuster admit the credit card wasn’t updated and the account may have gone into a negative balance. McGurk says you should think of your E-ZPass like Netflix or Hulu. If your credit card changes, you need to update all these services to reflect it.
Another common misconception is the Transurban vs. E-ZPass. They are two separate companies. If you have an unpaid trip on the Express Lanes, E-ZPass can help you prevent it from happening in the future, but only Transurban can fix what has already happened in the past with your unpaid toll. Getting the two mixed up can lead to escalating fees and penalties when you thought the matter was closed.
McGurk reminds people to call them. If you aren’t sure what you received in the mail, contact them and the company will work with you.
As WTOP reported last year, Transurban now has a First-Time Forgiveness Program. If you contact Transurban and fix the problem that caused the unpaid toll trip, the company will waive the fees the first time.
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