Friday, August 17, 2012

The latest dumb thing I've been forced to do

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Pass-A-Grille Beach in Pinellas County. Depending on which route you take to get there, you may have to pay a small toll of 75 cents. Apparently, I took a different route home than I did going there because I didn’t know about the tolls until I was leaving and saw a sign a half mile from the toll booth. That was a surprise, but no problem since I had dollar bills on me. Except there was no attendant on duty. You had to have either exact change or one of those pre-paid “Sun Pass” gizmos. You also had to know this before you got to the toll booth because there were no places to turn around. I had none of those things. There were cars behind me so I kept going, hoping there would be something I could do when I got to the gate. This obviously happens all the time because there were a whole stack of these envelopes waiting for me when I pulled up.

I’d like to take you through this little slice of stupidity, step-by-step…

This conjures an image of someone slapping themselves in the forehead. "Of course! What a great idea! I'd much rather do that anyway! It's easier and funner!", when, of course, none of that is true.

If you do not have the correct change to pay the toll and find yourself in an unattended cash lane, do not back up or get out of your vehicle, as it is unsafe.

This might be my favorite part. It implies that I just wander around stupidly all the time, oblivious to what’s going on around me and every so often, I just happen to wake up enough to 'find' myself somewhere. "Hey look! I'm at a toll plaza!" "Hey look, I'm at the airport!" "Hey look, I'm in the Gulf of Mexico!" How insulting. It’s like they know me!

However, payment for the toll is still required. Please mail your payment in this envelope within 10 days (payable to: FDOT Turnpike Enterprise). Toll Amount Due:


2 Axle Vehicle $.75

Add $.75 for each additional axle

Please send check or money order only (do not send cash) and include the following information: vehicle license plate information, date, and time.
Can you imagine other businesses operating this way? Picture yourself walking into a McDonald's. There's no staff there but they left behind a stack of Quarter Pounders (without cheese). Since you walked in there, the rules say you have to eat one (even if you came there for a Filet-O-Fish value meal) and you have to pay for it. But not then and there; later, you have to dance a little jig while you FedEx them a gold Krugerrand. 
Please be sure to retain a copy of your cancelled check or money order in the event a violation is generated.
This means a violation is going to be generated. It's a system that is so inherently fucked up that it automatically issues a standard, preemptive warning about the potential for future fuck ups. Bureaucrats don't see this as something that is fundamentally flawed and should be fixed, preferring instead to regard it simply as effective.

If you have any additional questions please call (407) 264-3164 or email

Here it is, a check for .75. It looks just as stupid as you’d expect it to. And I had to mail it, at my expense, of course.  

If you follow the logic of this system, it goes something like this:
  • The State of Florida's Department of Transportation has determined that it needs to generate revenue for operating purposes, which it will do by assessing and collecting a toll of .75 for certain, not all, vehicular access points to and from Pass-A-Grille Beach.
  • The State of Florida's Department of Transportation has determined that it is not cost effective to staff these access points with attendants who can accept payments and make change.
  • Ditto for machines that might perform at least some of the same functions.
  • Instead, they print a bunch of envelopes for the benefit of drivers who aren't forunate enough to have exact change.
  • Those drivers mail their payments to the State of Florida's Department of Transportation in these envelopes, paying a total of $1.21 (.75 toll + .46 postage), or 38% more than the original toll.
  • The State of Florida still only collects .75.
  • The State of Florida's Department of Transportation hires people to sit in an office and process checks and money orders there, instead of taking dollar bills and handing back quarters at toll booths.
  • This system exists instead of raising the toll to $1.00 and at least installing machines that could accept dollar bills and credit/debit cards, the cost of which would be offset by whatever they're spending to print envelopes, and would generate an extra .25 for every every car that passes through while simultaneously saving non-coin-carrying motorists .21.


Anonymous said...

How about those sleeping FDOT contract employees who weren't fired? In my opinion, their priorities really need to be revamped, especially since they are funded by taxpayer dollars.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all you said , visited from out of country recently , picked up rental car and hit the orlando toll roads . Love for the renal company to sell me a Sun Pass that's a different issue. Was fine till I hit an unmanned toll no change and now I sit with my envelope in Canada third time tried by phone to pay have never had one phone call returned , think I agreed to pay the rental company a fee when they get this bill I can not pay . Not the best for tourism is all I can say , shame on the toll bosses , there has got to be a better way. No one to collect no charge.