E-ZPass anything but for some Philly area cellular customers

| 8/12/2002

A large number of E-Zpass toll-collection tags are failing in the Philadelphia area, affecting at least 1,300 drivers each month, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The culprit is some digital wireless telephones that activate the tags, draining the life out of their batteries.

Some batteries, designed to last 10 years, reportedly are going bad after one year. The tag maker, Mark IV IVHS Inc., says tags used when the system was brought into the area three years ago were designed to respond to a wide range of frequencies and caused the problem. The tag maker says the problem has since been fixed.

All tags shipped from the factory since last summer reportedly are designed to filter out cell-phone signals. And only certain models of AT&T Wireless telephones are believed to cause the trouble with the old tags.

The cell-phone problem appears limited to 1800-megahertz cell phones, using what is called TDMA technology. When an E-ZPass tag fails, the driver gets a warning signal at toll plazas and must call the issuing agency to avoid a stiff fine and have the tag replaced.

The cell phone interference does not increase the toll bills of E-ZPass users. It just drains the battery.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Authority, which has issued 230,000 tags, is replacing about 1,000 tags monthly because batteries have failed. The Delaware River Port Authority, which has issued 200,000 tags, is replacing about 300 a month.