March 23, 2011
Phantom tollbooths are becoming the way of the future in Kansas, as the Turnpike Authority replaces people with self-pay machines. The agency started installing the automated booths a little over a year ago, and has been expanding its automated operation ever since. Agency leaders say the change could save you money down the road.
The Kansas Turnpike is a roadway John McCrary knows well, after spending nearly ten years traveling the state to recruit for the U.S. Army. So, he's gotten used to paying his toll to a person and not to a machine.
"Machines... if you want something to go wrong, use a machine. The more complicated the machine the more problems you have," said McCrary.
But he says he does understand why the Turnpike Authority would make the change.
"If it works, I think that's great, cuts down on the people, having to pay them and everything," said McCrary.
That's exactly why the agency says it's going automated.
"This is technology that we felt like we couldn't ignore because it offers the promise of managing our costs more efficiently," said Kansas Turnpike President and CEO Michael Johnston.
The agency says it's installing the technology without laying people off. Instead, it's eliminating job positions that become open on their own. And the self-pay machines won't completely replace workers. In some locations you'll only use self-pay overnight, and in the busiest locations, not at all.
"Where you won't see them and where they won't be used is at our busiest mainline plazas because they simply can't handle people as fast as our collectors can," said Johnston.
But where you will find the machines, they're saving the Turnpike about $1.5 million per year. It's money agency leaders say you may also save down the road.
"At the end of the day, it means that we won't ask our customers to pay higher prices sooner than what otherwise may have been the case," said Johnston.
Even with the machines, the Turnpike says the best way to save the agency and yourself money, is to use a K-Tag.