Tuesday, September 08, 2009

These New Policies are Taking a Toll On Me

I've been a staunch defender of the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) in the pages of this blog, But I do have to say that I'm a little distressed by two recent developments.

First of all, the toll rates went up last week. I knew that was coming, but I didn't know the extent until I went through a main plaza on the George Bush a few days ago. (In fact, I was really confused at first; the rates at the ramp booth closest to my house--the one I use frequently when grocery shopping or visiting my friend one suburb over--actually went down when the changes took place.) Seeing the rate at the Renner plaza rise to a dollar for TollTag customers (from 70 cents) made me do something I'd never done before in the entire time I've used NTTA roads: Decide if the trip was really necessary or if I could go another way.

I'm also somewhat confused by the sliding scale at the different booths and plazas. I guess it makes sense that a shorter trip equals a cheaper toll, but I never expected a ramp plaza to almost equal the cost of a mainlane plaza in some places. And on my trip to Legacy a few days ago, I was very surprised to see that, while the Renner plaza costs a dollar to pass through, the Coit one is now $1.08. What's up with the extra eight cents? It seems like all the mainlane plazas out to be the same price, as they have been throughout the history of the system. (UPDATE: On a trip to Denton the day after this post, I noticed that the Frankford plaza is also a dollar, which makes the extra eight pennies at Coit even more of a mystery.)

The other unnerving thing is the speed limit increase on most sections of the system to 70 mph. It's not that traffic is going too fast, but rather the opposite problem: Nobody's speeding up! I'll admit that, I'm generally in favor of this increase, as I was always having to stifle the urge to go 70 in a 60 zone in the first place, and, ironically, now that it is, I have to remind myself of that, since I seem to be on auto-pilot to do 60 after all these years.

But it was very hard to go 70, at least on the Bush this past weekend. I'm not sure how much of that can be chalked up to either the newness of the increase (everyone else is on autopilot at 60 like I've been) or the fact that the past two days were a Sunday and a holiday, respectively, but it's going to be hard to maintain the higher speeds if nobody else is doing so.

If you're an NTTA rider, feel free to chime in about either the increased tolls or speed limits and how they're affecting your commute.

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