Toll Hikes Conspire With Record High Gas Prices to Make This Holiday Travel Season the Most Expensive Ever
As if record high gas prices aren’t enough for travelers to deal with this holiday season drivers must also brace for additional costs related to increased toll fees across much of the nation, especially along the eastern seaboard.
If you’re planning a trip to New York City for a shopping or theater excursion this holiday be aware that back in September the toll rates on the bridges and tunnels increased by 50% so entering the city by car now costs a whopping $12 if you’re paying in cash (EZ Pass prices are $9.50 Peak, $7.50 Off-Peak). There’s something a little scary about tolls that require you to pull a ten-spot out of your wallet for a single crossing, and the Verazzano-Narrows bridge even tops this with a $13 fee. Click on the interactive map below to see the new toll rates at each crossing.
On the first of November a number of toll hikes went into effect in Maryland as well including the toll for the Bay Bridge connecting Maryland’s Eastern Shore with its mainland which increased 60% from $2.50 to $4. Tolls on all three Baltimore Harbor crossings (the Fort McHenry Tunnel, the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel and the Francis Scott Key Bridge) increased 50% from $2 to $3, and the toll on the Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge increased 33% from $3 to $4. In northern Maryland smaller toll hikes of 20% went into effect as the tolls on the the JFK Memorial Highway (I-95) and the Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge were raised from $5 to $6.
Maryland has also introduced a brand new toll road, the much-anticipated (and hotly-debated) InterCounty Connector (ICC) that connects I-95 with I-370. This new toll road has been free up until December 5th when a $6 toll went into effect ($4.50 EZ Pass) for driving the entire 18-mile stretch of the road during peak hours on weekdays, or $4.80 ($3.20 EZ Pass) for off-peak hours and weekends and federal holidays. Night owls can save extra money on the ICC as the toll rate drops to $2.60 ($1.90 EZ Pass) from 11 pm to 5 am every day of the week.
Things won’t get any better in 2012, as numerous tolling authorities are set to roll out increases on the first day of the new year with the Illinois Tollway leading the pack with an 87% toll hike on four toll roads (the Jane Adams Memorial Tollway, the Tri-State Tollway, the Reagan Memorial Tollway and the Veterans Memorial Tollway). They have an excellent interactive map of all the toll facilities that you can view here. New Jersey will also be introducing toll hikes of 53% and 50% on the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike respectively on New Years Day. At the end of January 50% toll hikes will also go into effect for Hudson river crossings between Bear Mountain and Catskills, NY when tolls will climb to $1.50 ($1.25 EZ Pass) from the current $1 rate.
Many other states have proposals underway to introduce tolls in 2012 and beyond including Missouri where the Dept. of Transportation is considering adding tolls to I-70, the main highway that cuts across the state from east to west, as a way to fund a major rebuilding effort. A similar proposal is underway for interstates I-80 and I-35 in Iowa and tolling actions are planned in Florida and Colorado as well.
So what’s causing this sudden increase in tolls? Woefully underfunded state departments of transportation that are increasingly turning to tolls as a way to rebuild infrastructure without raising taxes. From a consumers perspective its not just the additional cost that’s at issue but the increasing complexity of the fees that make it nearly impossible to predict what it will cost to drive places.
We’re going to be writing a separate post about these new variable tolling structures, but meanwhile we’re working aggressively on finding ways to include toll information into the trip cost estimates we provide on our Cost2Drive website and Cost2Drive iPhone App as its the number one request we hear from our users. Until then we’ve put up a site called Cost of Tolls that aggregates toll information from across the US to help drivers quickly get the latest toll information prior to leaving on a trip.
Posted in Autos, Cost2Drive, Google Maps, road trip, Travel, Uncategorized
Tagged george washington bridge, holiday travel, lincoln tunnel, road trip, toll fees, tolls, trip calculator
On Track to be Highest on Record for Holiday Season
Heading into the 2011 holiday season its beginning to look like getting a lump of coal for Christmas might not be such a bad thing as it can at least be converted into fuel for electric vehicles like the Volt and Leaf. Absent that, or a dramatic end-of-year retreat in fuel prices, we’re all going to be paying record amounts to drive home to visit family as gas prices are at historic highs for this time of year.
Weekly Retail Gas Prices: 1990 to Present (US Energy Information Administration)
Looking at the above chart of average weekly retail gas prices from 1990 to the present one can clearly see the two spikes in 2008 and then again this past summer. At first glance it appears that this year’s trend mirrors that of 2008, with gas prices rising rapidly heading into the summer months only to be followed by steep declines in the fall. However on closer inspection it turns out this is not the case.
During the 2008 spike a record high price of $4.11 a gallon for regular grade gasoline was reached the week of July 7th, a price which subsequently cratered to nearly half that amount by the first week of November. This year’s trend has been quite different with the peak price being reached much earlier in the year (May 9th) and the seasonal drop-off much less dramatic as gas prices are now only 14% below this year’s peak price of $3.97.
Taking a look at the historical price of gas for the first week of November reveals that gas prices are 22% higher than they were heading into the holidays last year and at the highest price ever for this time of year. This despite the fact that the Arab Spring is far behind us and the removal of Qaddafi from oil-producing Libya is no longer in doubt.
So what does this mean for gas prices heading into 2012? Although the US Energy Information Service doesn’t see a return to the near $4 peak we saw earlier this year, some analysts disagree. “I think we will see prices in 2012 that will break … records” said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service.
Don’t be caught off guard by high gas prices this holiday season. Before heading home for the holidays be sure to check out the Cost2Drive website or our new Cost2Drive iPhone app to see what it will cost to get there based on current gas prices along your route. It will also help you save money by locating the cheapest gas at refueling points and displays the cheapest airfare so you can see if it will be cheaper to drive or fly home.
Improves Speed, Accuracy and Comprehensiveness.
If there’s one thing we obsess about at C2G, its creating absolutely seamless experiences that delight our users, and so its with great excitement that we announce today that we’ve enabled the Google Maps autocomplete functionality on Cost2Drive just in time for Memorial Day weekend.
When we first launched Cost2Drive.com we thought we had created a pretty simple user interface to our application, and that’s been supported by all the positive feedback we’ve received. But we’ve also noticed a pattern of feedback related to issues users were having around getting Cost2Drive to recognize certain addresses. As we investigated this further, we discovered this is often related to one of two issues:
- The location was not recognized by the Google Maps API
- The user misspelled or mistyped parts of the address
These issues are further compounded by the fact that Cost2Drive is attracting a traveling audience, and as a result many of the destinations being entered are not technically geographic locations. For example, Disney World and Disneyland have been entered over 3,000 times so far this year. Other examples include geographically ambiguous locations like the Outer Banks in North Carolina, which used to result in an error message in our application.
Well not anymore. Right on the cusp of the peak summer driving season we’re excited to launch this new feature which not only recognizes non-geographic locations like theme parks but also dramatically reduces the time required to enter long addresses. This is even more helpful when accessing Cost2Drive.com from a mobile device, where every keystroke counts.
And best of all, bad spellers like myself will finally have a crutch to fall back on when entering locations. Here’s an interesting tidbit from our search logs, Niagara Falls is misspelled over 30% of the time its entered as a destination, but now with autocomplete never again!
Let us know what you think of the new feature. We wish everyone a happy and safe holiday weekend and if you’re looking for some wonderful road trip ideas check out the 20 Memorable Memorial Day Road Trips we posted last year. They’re available in Google Maps and look awesome on an iPad!