Gov. Deval Patrick came out with a plan the other day to eliminate the human element when it comes to toll booths on the Massachusetts Turnpike.
The governor is proposing that the state phase out the men and women who man the toll booths and replace them with an automated system in which cash would likely no longer be accepted.
In touting the benefits of such a change, the governor and state transportation officials said it would produce long-term savings for the state, while providing drivers with a more efficient ride. It would also eliminate about 400 full- and part-time toll takers.
“This isn’t about the toll takers, it’s about having as modern and efficient a transportation system as possible,” Patrick contended. “We will make as dignified and as soft a landing for those people as possible.”
That’s all very well, but we all know that what toll takers take home for pay is very much a part of the issue. Those manning the booth make anywhere from $58,500 to $65,000 a year. With overtime, it’s possible to boost one’s pay check to over $100,000 a year.
As much as we hate to see people lose their jobs, we, as Massachusetts residents and taxpayers, can see that something’s out of whack here.
It’s just another piece of the ongoing struggle to fix the state Department of Transportation’s long-term woes and sweet-heart deals — which have produced too much red ink over the years.
While Patrick and others in state government have long recognized the need to turn this problem around, it has proven to be an incredible tangle to unwind.
Unfortunately for Massachusetts there’s been no device like a GPS to chart an easy route.
Eliminating the job of toll taking would not solve the problem, but it is a turn in the right direction.
“The bottom line is, technology has overtaken where we are today in our toll collection ... and we need to respond to that,” Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey said.