Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rickenbacker Causeway going cashless?

You have entered 91,041 Bills worth $258,494
Bills with hits: 7,109 Total hits: 8,078
Hit rate: 7.81% Slugging Percentage: 8.87% (total hits/total bills)
George Score: 1,237.62
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Your initial entries with hits have traveled a total of 3,798,487 miles.
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In the continuing saga of cashless toll plazas, I was reading in today’s Miami Herald that there’s a plan to make the Rickenbacker Causeway Toll Plaza cashless. (You can read the article here.) It appears that the favored plan includes a cash lane, but I started thinking how bad a cashless system would be.

For those not familiar with South Florida geography, the Rickenbacker Causeway is the only land access to Key Biscayne. If you want to go to Key Biscayne, you either have to take The Rickenbacker or learn to swim. For the cyclists, a cashless toll plaza would mean that the traffic wouldn’t be regulated and there is no other causeway to and from the island.

I began to think of this from the perspective of the drivers. My first thought was of teenaged drivers. In Florida, you can drive at 16. However, you can’t have a credit or debit card until you’re 18. If someone has their own car at 16 and lives on the island, they have to maintain an account, either with SunPass or C-Pass as their transponder.

From the user agreement, both transponder programs take cash. However, you have to be 18 to enter into an agreement. First, it means that you either can’t leave the island if you’re under 18 or effectively have to get your parents’ permission. Secondly, it means that there’s a way for parents to see when their children come back from the mainland.

Also, there are a lot of people that, for whatever reason, may not want a transponder. I don’t go to Key Biscayne a lot, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t ever. Suppose I’m invited to a party on Key Biscayne. Does that mean that I have to get a transponder just to go there? Suppose I can’t get one in time. I’d either have to turn down every invitation or get one now on the off chance that I will be invited one day.

This isn’t even including the argument that there are several attractions on Key Biscayne. Suppose someone comes in from out of state and wants to go to Crandon Park or Bill Baggs State Recreation Area? There’s also a high school on Key Biscayne. Does this mean that all of the staff and students have to get transponders?

As I said, the favored plan would leave one lane for those paying cash. I really hope that they do. It’s basically all of the issues I had with cashless toll plazas in general, but with the added issue of restricting access to the island. For those that complain, those in charge can’t say that you have the option of taking a different route.

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