Mini-Vacation planning - SFOT/SFFT

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 2:55 PM

I know it's irrelevant to Texas, but we have a similar toll system in the Denver area. There are no booths where you pay. You either have a transponder or they take a picture of your license plate and bill you. For the latter, you get a % increase to the toll. That's for everyone. Then as I understand it, a rental agency may tack on another fee for having the bill go to them from within their rental car...like an admin fee or something.

We were grateful for the heads up from a friend when we first traveled here. There are plenty of ways around the tolls, but the GPS will take you right through them.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013 10:00 PM

Just in case you didn't know, most GPS systems have an "avoid toll roads" option in the navigation settings. When the time savings from toll roads are negligible, I often enable this option.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013 6:34 PM

Not to pull a Gonch, but outside of NYC, when is the time and effort of avoiding a toll ever worth the dollar or two you'd have to pay?

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Thursday, September 12, 2013 7:23 PM

Well, I just drove to Chicago this past weekend from Ohio. On the way in, I took the Skyway which was $4 on E-Zpass. On the way back, I followed I-94 to avoid the Skyway, which is free and only added 6 minutes (or 6 miles) to the drive. Since I wasn't in any hurry, I figured why not.

Somewhat related: When I make my annual pilgrimage to Great Adventure and Knoebels, GPS prefers the southern route of I-76, but taking I-80 only adds 8 minutes and costs literally half as much. And when I say half, I'm talking a $24 savings. (This was a few years ago, so I'm not sure what the difference is now, but that was an unpleasant surprise when I got my statement. I wish there were an easy way to calculate tolls across multiple states.)

Last edited by birdhombre, Thursday, September 12, 2013 7:32 PM
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Thursday, September 12, 2013 10:14 PM

ApolloAndy said:

Not to pull a Gonch, but outside of NYC, when is the time and effort of avoiding a toll ever worth the dollar or two you'd have to pay?

When it's three times as much and is the fastest way to and from work every day.

The Greenway is a privately-owned toll road that runs next to IAD (Dulles International Airport) in Ashburn, VA. It cuts my commute by 20 minutes one way, give or take, but I can't justify paying the $5.80 they charge during peak hours. If I were to take it to and from work every day, it would cost me north of 3 grand a year.

I know, it's not relevant to this situation, but you asked. :)

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Thursday, September 12, 2013 11:23 PM

Since my name was invoked, I feel the need to chime in.

Obviously, you guys know me enough by now to understand I'm probably not going out of my way to skip a toll.

But if I stop and think about it, on paper, all intellectual-like, I have to consider the time cost, the cost in gas, the additional mileage/depreciation on a vehicle and all that crap. Whether it's a one-time thing or daily hassle changes the deal a lot.

The value proposition is going to be different for all of us.

At the low end if feels like those idiots that drive 10 or 15 miles out of their way to save a dime on gas and the other end of the spectrum it's common sense to take the alternative route.

And to answer Andy's question - for a buck or two, the answer is never.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013 11:43 PM

As mentioned, I only choose a non-toll route when the times are about the same. It's no effort for me, as the GPS is doing the routing.

Tolls are not a dollar or two these days...I wish. Looking back at the past few months, with the discounted EZ Pass rates, my round trips to Chicago and Boston were still $26 and $55 in tolls.

For Chicago, I could apparently avoid the $26 toll for an extra 30 minutes of driving (4:15 vs 3:45). For Boston, I could have avoided the $55 toll for an extra hour of driving (13 vs 12 h). I chose the toll routes for those particular trips, but in the future, I might try avoiding them.

I used to always take the Ohio Turnpike to Cedar Point. A couple years ago, I enabled "avoid toll roads" and discovered it was still 1:20 using a combination of Route 2 and other highways. Additionally, my hybrid vehicle is much more efficient using the toll-free route rather than cruising at 75+mph on the Turnpike. When considering the tolls and fuel savings, I'm saving about $10 per trip to Cedar Point, and I actually find the alternate route more enjoyable (more scenic, less dull).

As a result of this win, I always do a quick check of "avoid toll roads" with the GPS before making any significant trip now.

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Thursday, September 12, 2013 11:52 PM

There are times when I'm willing to spend some extra money, IF it means i won't ne clenching my teeth going through a harrowing situation to get to a place i want to visit.

Case in point, October 2006. I flew into Philadelphia to "Hit" four amusement parks (Dorney,l Knoebal's (Phoenix Phall Phest), Dutch wonderland and SF Great Adventure) on a Coaster Trip. (The airfare was FREE thanks to an overbooked flight that occured in May or 2006 nwhen I was flying to Indiana to attend the 'HoliWOOD Nights" and "Kentucky Thunder" Events that year). :) I stayed at an hotel in King of Prussia, Pa. Across the street was an AMTRACK Station. Philadelphia is a big City, and there were a few Historic Sights in that city i wanted to see (The Liberty Bell, Independance Hall and the USS Olympia to be precise) before I started to hit the parks. Big Cities have their share of problems, including one of my Pet Peeves, GRIDLOCK. The next morning I went to the Amtrack station and saw a Train was scheduled to leave at 8:00 AM and I could return to King Of Prussia on a Train leaving Philadelphia at 3:30 PM (Dorney didn't open until 5:00 PM) The fare was $ 16.00 (Round Trip) but I decided to purchase it because it meant I wouldn't have to deal with rush-hour traffic coming to and from Downtown Philadelphia, not to mention finding a place to park. While riding the Train every now and then I'd see we'd pass over the Expressway, and I'd see the cars packed bumper-to-bumper. I would say to myself "So long SUCKERS!" I saw the Historical Sights, and arrived at Dorney just in time for the opening at 5:00 PM. Yes, it cost me an extra $16.00, but that was a small price to pay to RETAIN MY SANITY. It wasn't the first time I purchased "Insanity Insurance" and it probably won't be the last! ;)

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Thursday, September 12, 2013 11:55 PM

Jeph said:

Tolls are not a dollar or two these days...I wish.

I don't mean to be a dick here, but according to this the absolute most I can pay to cross my state is $16.50. ($11/25with an EZPass)

For all intents and purposes, that means anything less than border-to-border is likely just a couple of bucks.

I understand the tolls in fly-over country are a whole different ballgame than the city tolls some of you guys are talking, but I'm much more likely to encounter them on a regular basis.

So yeah, for a couple of bucks - it's never worth it.

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Friday, September 13, 2013 12:07 AM

Lord Gonchar said:
fly-over country

Breakin' that rule about quoting the post directly above me. ;~)

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Friday, September 13, 2013 12:14 AM

The only non-toll freeway here in Orlando is I-4, and it sucks ass. It's always busy. I could take toll roads to work, but it would definitely add up, and not save me much time.

But I also get the other situation. If I'm just moving about in a non-routine way between points, I don't care if there's a toll. I've got a SunPass, that's what it's for. Operating this way has led us to spend about $20/month between the two cars.

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Friday, September 13, 2013 12:27 AM

Time vs money.

If I can save a lot of time by paying a toll, I pay the toll. When I drove from Chicago to Massachusetts this summer for Coaster Con, it was toll roads almost all the way.

If paying a toll only saves me a few minutes, I pass by the toll road. If I'm leaving Chicago to go to Michigan or downstate Indiana, if I'm leaving MCO to go to my friend Amy's house, I skip the toll road.

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Friday, September 13, 2013 12:29 AM

^^^^Sure, if there's some efficient toll road in a city for a dollar, it'd be a no brainer.

I thought we were talking about vacation planning, which would encompass entire routes. Either way, several of us have answered Andy.

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Friday, September 13, 2013 12:51 AM

If we're talking vacation driving, then I'll take the toll 95% of the time. In the big picture of vacation costs, the $20, $30 or even $50 you guys are talking isn't a game changer. It's one park admission (or less).

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Friday, September 13, 2013 1:26 AM

Of course the toll savings from 1 trip won't be a game changer, but if there aren't drawbacks taking a toll-free route (as stated in my example with CP), why would you waste the money on a toll road?

I drive 30-40k miles per year, and I'm always looking for ways to be more efficient. Think about 1 toll savings, and it's not a big deal. Think about all of them combined over a year or several years, and it can be significant.

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Friday, September 13, 2013 2:16 AM

Jeph said:

Of course the toll savings from 1 trip won't be a game changer, but if there aren't drawbacks taking a toll-free route (as stated in my example with CP), why would you waste the money on a toll road?

Conveniece. Ease of travel. Less stress. If you can do it easier, why would you waste the time off of a toll road?

The thought of side highways, smaller roads and the 'scenic route' in general sounds horrible. Let me hit the interstate where I can do 85 and get where I'm going. I'm willing to pay for that. Hell, if they had toll roads that could guarantee travel times or had increased speed limits, I'd pay even more.

I drive 30-40k miles per year, and I'm always looking for ways to be more efficient. Think about 1 toll savings, and it's not a big deal. Think about all of them combined over a year or several years, and it can be significant.

But if I'm thinking in terms of vacation travel (as you suggested I do earlier) it's still a small percentage of the overall cost. Regardless of how many times I do it. 2% of trip costs is 2% of trip costs if I do it once or one hundred times.

Seriously, you can't paint me a scenario where I'm going to seek alternative routes to save $30 when my week on the road is costing 4 digits.

Last edited by Lord Gonchar, Friday, September 13, 2013 2:16 AM
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Friday, September 13, 2013 7:20 AM

Lord Gonchar said:Conveniece. Ease of travel. Less stress. If you can do it easier, why would you waste the time off of a toll road?

I don't find my new route to CP any less convenient, more difficult, or more stressful. I'm actually happier during the trip. The whole way there, I laugh at my crisp $10 bill that I saved. My hybrid winks at me as my efficiency meter fills. I wink back.

Seriously though, you're glorifying toll roads beyond what I've experienced. In particular, the Ohio Turnpike is riddled with police and perpetually under construction. I find myself worried of being pulled over (thus going near the speed limit) and annoyed, thinking, "I paid for this, and I'm still stuck in construction?"

Though my GPS still suggests the turnpike without avoidance's, there's an unpredictable 15-20 minute trek through stop-and-go city lights to access it. I feel like my new toll-free route actually wins the race with its steadiness. Sort of a tortoise-and-the-hare scenario.

This is not to say that there aren't times when I completely agree with you. I'd always suggest toll road turnpikes for people like my parents, who seem very scared of driving and getting lost. Or if I'm traveling somewhere completely new for the first time, tolls are typically the last thing on my mind. But once I'm comfortable with states and areas, why not hit a few buttons on the GPS to see what my other options are?

Seriously, you can't paint me a scenario where I'm going to seek alternative routes to save $30 when my week on the road is costing 4 digits.

Not everyone spends $1500 on their road trips for the tolls to be so insignificant though. When I'm not with Mac & Josh (Spent over $150 that night lol), my expenses at CP are typically very low. I would kill your 2% figure. If I actually paid the $8 toll, it'd sometimes be the only measurable expense of the trip.

My week in Chicago...very small traveling expense, stayed with friends that had plenty of no-cost activities planned and Groupons already purchased. I bought our Six Flags tickets and picked up some bar tabs.

My week in Boston...very small traveling expense, stayed with sister that also had no-cost activities planned and Groupons already purchased. I repeatedly tried to buy stuff and give them money, but my sister refused, "No, you drove all this way to come visit us..." I managed to sneak in a secret swipe for the groceries, but not much else.

Those were my most recent vacations, and they were awesome. But regardless of toll percentages, if I saved $1,000 in tolls over X amount of time, I don't really care if I spent $5,000 or $20,000 on the vacations themselves. I'll have an extra $1000 to use on future tolls when the roads are of great benefit. ;-)

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Friday, September 13, 2013 10:08 AM

Lord Gonchar said:

The thought of side highways, smaller roads and the 'scenic route' in general sounds horrible.

I'm just the opposite. When I have the opportunity and time, I much prefer the side highways, the smaller roads, the scenic route. I find the scenery, the small towns, much more interesting than the mile after mile after mile of farmland, toll plazas and fast food chains gathered around the exits toll roads offer.

When I drove to the east coast for Coaster Con this year, I was willing to pay for the convenience and time savings of toll roads. When I go to Cedar Point, time is not of the essence and I hit the side roads.

Last edited by slithernoggin, Friday, September 13, 2013 10:08 AM
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Friday, September 13, 2013 10:28 AM

Lord Gonchar said:

Let me hit the interstate where I can do 85 and get where I'm going.

slithernoggin said:

I'm just the opposite. When I have the opportunity and time, I much prefer the side highways, the smaller roads, the scenic route.

I'm with both of you. It just depends on the situation. The key words are "when I have the opportunity and time," because if I don't have either, I'll sacrifice nice scenery to get where the hell I'm going as quickly as possible.

Sometimes the trip is part of the vacation, other times the trip is the precursor to it.

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Friday, September 13, 2013 10:56 AM

Thanks, Jeph! I don't use my GPS on the phone that much and did not know that "avoid toll roads" option was there. I've found it now that you pointed it out.

On whether it's "worth it" to pay a toll or avoid it, I think it depends on the circumstance. Any number of reasons can lead to either one. The main toll road that I encounter is a commuting route out of the city. So obviously that would add up. I still take it from time to time when the circumstances warrant it, though.

The other that prompted my post is a route many think they need to take from the airport. It's truly just a revenue generator as there are plenty of alternative routes around that won't add to your time or stress.

I thank the folks using the tolls all of the time. They are adding to the revenue that keep the rest of the roads nice and smooth...except in Pennsylvania, of course. :-)

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