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Finding creative ways to get drivers to embrace electronic tolling

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Before transitioning to all-electronic tolling, New Jersey must increase the number of drivers who use E-ZPass — and to do so, transportation officials are looking to enact efforts from other states' authorities to make the transponders more accessible to the public and accepted in more states.

"What you're seeing in New Jersey is what other agencies have been doing with getting the (E-ZPass) tags into retail locations and walk-in centers," said P.J. Wilkins, executive director of the E-ZPass Group for New Jersey. "Right now, everyone's looking for more places to distribute tags … and we'd like to see the number of tolls in our region done through the use of E-ZPass increase."

According to Kevin M. Rehmann, security and operations manager for the South Jersey Transportation Authority, about 66.5 percent of drivers use E-Z Pass at the authority's toll plazas, but to increase that percentage, the agency will unveil a "much more user-friendly" registration and activation service at the Frank S. Farley Service Plaza, Atlantic City Visitor Welcome Center and Hamilton Mall by the end of the summer.

"We're really looking into retailers like CVS as potential avenues to retail E-Z Pass … and make it more convenient to activate," Rehmann said. "The plan is to have two computers and two work stations at each place … to encourage people to make the purchase and then activate it immediately, instead of waiting 30 days from doing it at home. This weekend is a good example of how traffic backs up when people without E-Z Pass sit at the tollbooths."

While Wilkins is unaware of any other efforts in the state to sell E-ZPass in retail stores, he said parts of New Jersey are working with the American Automobile Association and the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission to distribute more transponders.

"There's a lot of interest in finding more ways to distribute tags," Wilkins said.

"New Jersey is very good about being innovative."

Rehmann said the state is currently in the process of making the "back-office connections and software" to have transportation authorities in other states — like Florida and North Carolina — accept E-ZPass.

"The concept is having it in place by the wintertime to make it seamless to go from the Northeast to the South without stopping for tolls," Rehmann said. "But it will take some work to make that a reality. We still need to figure out how we'll be getting paid if people in New Jersey use E-ZPass in Florida."

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