[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
With gas prices at an all-time high, and predicted to climb higher, seems people are keenly aware of what it costs to drive from here to there. But a study from MIT suggests there’s something many of us are missing. The tolls. Ok, we’re not actually missing the tolls. We’re paying them. But many of us now pay them electronically. As a result, we no longer know exactly how much we’re shelling out.
In 2003, economist Amy Finkelstein spent 18 months commuting from Boston to New York to rendezvous with her economist fiancé. The two enjoyed sharing data about mileage and gas and travel time, but at some point realized they both simply cruised through the toll booths and didn’t have a clue about the charges. Seems like an innocent oversight. But Finkelstein has found that that ignorance carries a price: on roads that use the EZ Pass system, the cost of tolls has crept up more than it has on roads that still make you dig for your dimes. In fact, electronic tolls end up costing 20 to 40 percent more than manual tolls within 10 years of being installed. Probably because politicians think you won’t notice. Just something to ponder next time you thumb your nose at the drivers who are waiting to hand over their cash.