Jeff Fuentes Gleghorn
The Pennsylvania Turnpike has partnered with KUBRA to allow drivers the option to pay tolls in person. KUBRA has over 67,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada, which they say reaches over 40 percent of households in those countries. The KUBRA payment kiosks are found inside several stores including 7-Eleven, CVS, and Walgreens, among others. Those who choose to pay in person will go to the turnpike website and print out a slip, which they bring to pay off their balance. The new program does not cost the turnpike any money, instead charging drivers a $1.50 fee for every transaction.
The decision comes alongside a surge in unpaid tolls driven by the COVID19 pandemic. In 2020, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) quickly moved up plans to remove toll booths from the turnpike entirely, removing cash toll collection to reduce exposure to the virus. Instead, drivers would either pay with an EZ Pass – the choice for around 85 percent of turnpike users – or would have their toll mailed to them based on their license plate. In the past, these mailed bills have only had a 67 percent payment rate, and from 2019 to 2020, unpaid tolls jumped from $81 million to nearly $105 million, an increase of over 25 percent.
Part of the problem is the number of unbanked or underbanked people in the United States. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which oversees many aspects of banking in the U.S., found that 5.4 percent of U.S. residents did not have a bank account in 2019. Pennsylvania does better with only 4 percent of residents lacking a bank account, but without a bank account it is impossible to pay tolls online. Many people with bank accounts are considered underbanked, meaning they regularly use financial services like check cashing, money orders, or payday loans from non-banks. Often underbanked people only or mostly use cash, which also doesn’t work for paying tolls online. About 17 percent of people in the U.S. and 16.6 percent of Pennsylvanians could be considered underbanked. The hope is that by using KUBRA’s services to provide in-person, cash payment options, the PTC can cut down on the number of unpaid tolls.
To find a complete list of places to pay tolls with cash, visit paturnpike.com/pay-a-bill and look for an option near you.