I-PASS customers are running out of time to obtain transponders before the Illinois tollway enacts a penalty for vehicles without them.
Currently, when a driver goes through a toll without a transponder, the tollway checks to see if the license plate matches an I-PASS account holder. If that's the case, the agency charges the I-PASS rate.
As of Jan. 1, the tollway will begin charging the cash rate, which is double, to I-PASS customers who drive without transponders.
Tollway officials said it costs the agency for someone to manually match license plates with I-PASS accounts.
The tollway charges a refundable deposit of $10 per transponder. Customers opening a new I-PASS account are required to provide a $20 account balance. People with an existing I-PASS account can add new transponders without having to fulfill the $20 balance requirement. A transponder may be shared among vehicles in a household, but the agency wants all license plates to be registered to an account. Accounts will be charged double if the shared transponder is not in the vehicle going through the toll.
In August, the tollway sent emails about the change to a small group of I-PASS account holders.
"Now we're going to go out and let all of our I-PASS customers know it's important to have an I-PASS (transponder) in your car," Chief of Communications and Marketing Cindy Klima said Thursday. Information should be sent to customers in a few weeks.
In March, the tollway had talked of giving people six months' notice of the change.
"We're going to do it in three months," Klima said. "In our test emails, people have been responding very positively."
However, numerous I-PASS holders who contacted the Daily Herald were unenthusiastic about the move.
"It's all about getting more money from the people," Arlington Heights resident Kevin O'Brien said. "Remember when tolls were supposed to go away after the roads were paid off? Guess they decided they needed our money more than we do."
The tollway anticipates it will raise about $15 million by enacting the cash rate for those without transponders.
Transponders can be ordered online at illinoistollway.com and by phone at (800) UC-IPASS (800-824-7277). They also can be purchased at local Jewel-Osco stores or tollway customer service center.