Earlier this week, my colleague Matt Ryan talked about that annoying dilemma regarding the toll lanes on the Garden State Parkway.

If you don't have E-ZPass, you're often times left scrambling to find exact change because there's no way for change to be made when entering or exiting the highway.

Lane 2 of the Berkeley toll plaza to the northbound Garden State Parkway
Lane 2 of the Berkeley toll plaza to the northbound Garden State Parkway (Joe Munger)

I've wondered about this for a long time, as I'm sure some of you have as well. It's almost like New Jersey wants to put peer pressure onto it's residents to purchase E-ZPass. It's honestly a very stupid set up on the GSP that I've often felt should have a much better solution.

To Catch a Toll Thief

Before I dive into it, first check out Matt's article as that'll be a perfect segue into what I have to share about this dilemma and how we should go about solving it. Maybe... just maybe, the right person will see this who can help solve this annoying problem on the GSP.

Cars waiting to pass the New Jersey Turnpike Tollbooth
UIG via Getty Images

The first solution would be to model the Parkway like the New Jersey Turnpike. On the Turnpike, there are no tolls on the main roadway (minus the tolls at the beginning and the end). You grab your ticket when you get on, and pay the amount when you get off.

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And also, the Turnpike never has toll plazas without at least one toll collector, so scrambling for change is never an issue.

Travelling on the Garden State Parkway
Mike Brant - Townsquare Media

Of course, one problem with this solution would be the toll-free sections of the Parkway (yes, there are sections you can ride for free... that was by design). I would argue that that shouldn't matter as you can average out the tolls at those particular sections. Makes more sense to do that then force someone to fumble looking for tons of exact change.

Southbound exit ramp toll of the Garden State Parkway
Southbound exit ramp toll of the Garden State Parkway (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ)

The next solution would be to address the problem on the on-ramps and off-ramps. If they don't want to staff the tolls there, then so be it. But at least install cash machines where at least you give someone an opportunity to pay the toll without getting a summons in the mail for going through without paying.

Customers Pay With Contactless Cards
Bloomberg via Getty Images

But let's take that a step further. Everything in today's world is credit or app based anyway. So why not install a machine at every toll that not only can make change for cash, but can also accept credit cards and payment through apps.

The current change baskets are so out of date, and let's be honest, those machines were never designed to take almost two dollars of change at one time.

Oak Tree Road overpass spans the Garden State Parkway in Woodbridge.
Oak Tree Road overpass spans the Garden State Parkway in Woodbridge (Google Street View)

So let's say for whatever reason all of the above is too complicated to do. That still leaves us with one more solution: Make the GSP toll-free. I mean, this was the original promise back when the Parkway was built, why not follow through?

Ah, but alas, money talks, and the odds of tolls going away for good will most likely never happen.

Garden State Parkway coin basket
(New Jersey Turnpike Authority)

So for the time being, if you don't have E-ZPass, you'll have to make due with having buckets of change if you plan on travelling the Garden State Parkway.

The reality is, they're probably going to make it E-ZPass only at some point, so we should just get used to the fact this dilemma isn't going away any time soon.

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