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No more EZ Tag parking at the airport

As you probably knew, if you had an EZ Tag in your car you could use it to pay for parking at IAH. But not any more, as Commissioners Court will shut it down.

The program provides special lines at Houston’s municipal airports for people with the tags that pay for their use of county toll roads. The parking fees are billed to the motorist’s account, and the toll road authority gets 7.75 percent of the proceeds, airport system spokeswoman Marlene McClinton said.

Use of the service has not measured up to expectations, officials said.

Fewer than half of the more than 150,000 EZ Tag customers who opted in to the program have used it, said LaWanda Howse, the toll road authority’s manager of special projects. That has translated to revenues of about $90,000 per month, she said, while costs of the program are about $170,000 per month.

I know I’ve used this before, though it’s been awhile since we usually employ the traditional “get someone to drop you off and pick you up” method of airport transportation, but I didn’t realize you had to opt in for this. I don’t quite get that – why wouldn’t you just be able to use it if you had the tag? You can use your EZ Tag on other toll roads across the state, after all. I also don’t quite understand how this program could be so exorbitantly expensive. What the heck was that $170K per month paying for? I would have thought a program like this would have been a no-brainer, yet somehow it wasn’t. What am I missing here?

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  1. David says:

    Here in Pittsburgh we have the same situation — you can use your Toll road EZ-Pass at the airport parking, but you have to register it.

    The reason is that PennDOT runs the toll roads, but the County runs the airport parking lots. They don’t talk to each other, so I actually had to set up two accounts linked to the same physical device — one with the state and one with the county.

    I imagine the reason in Houston was pretty similar. I am surprised more people don’t use it, however. I’ve never left the airport here without seeing at least two or three cars backed up at each open pay station, while I can just breeze through the auto-pay line.

  2. Joe White says:

    I have yet to find an explanation for the $170k figure. That just seems insane. How much does it cost to install and maintain those RFID readers? Not sure of the actual, but say there is one dedicated entrance and two dedicated exits at each terminal (1 at Hobby, 4 at Bush), or 15 total. Add two more for ease of math. Does it really cost $10k/month for those readers to talk to the database? That seems ludicrous.

  3. Greg Morrow says:

    When I parked at long-term at IAH (Parking Cents) over the solstice holiday, I used EZ Tag and had no option not to use it. No opt-in required. It was a really good experience, though, and I’d hate to see it go away.

  4. mollusk says:

    I don’t get it, either…except for perhaps it being another turf war between city and county. Shoot, we use EZ Tag readers to get in and out of our parking garage at work.

  5. Kenneth Fair says:

    I tried to register for this, but I’ve never been able to get it to work. I’ve never understood why you needed to register separately for this anyway.

  6. Kent says:

    Same deal in Dallas at DFW. I have an EZ pass but couldn’t use it at DFW because it wasn’t registered. I tried but the gate wouldn’t go up and I had to back up and go through they human-manned gate. I can’t imagine many people are going to bother unless they are serious power users of the airport, especially as they take credit cards at the toll booths so you don’t need to worry about coins or cash.

    Interestingly, at DFFW they do know exactly how long you’ve been at DFW and where you were parked even if you don’t have your ticket stub. I was astonished but apparently they have license plate readers and know where all the cars have been and for how long. I was parked for 10 days and the clerk knew exactly how long I had been there and where I was parked even before I handed her my ticket stub, just from reading my license plate.

  7. J. King says:

    Eztag is a great idea but I find it easier to just use Park N Fly’s website to prepay may parking. Then I don’t need to worry about having cash or will the sensor work or any of that its all take care of before I leave.

  8. […] As we know, the program that allows people with EZ Tags in their cars to use them to pay for parking at the airports is going to be shut down because it was losing money. This Chron article that examines the costs of the program raises more questions than it answers. The Harris County Toll Road Authority has lost more than $3 million in the three years it has permitted its EZ Tag holders to use their passes to pay for airport parking, a Chronicle analysis has found. […]

  9. DSE says:

    I’m very disappointed that this excellent program will be discontinued in Houston. Some idiot negotiated a horrile and unfavorable contract which made the prgram too expensive, btut don;t throw teh baby out with the bath water. Negotiate a better and more reasonable contract.

  10. Mike says:

    This was a very convenient service. And it kind of impressed out of town visitors who I would pick up and then just zip out of the airport while they started to dig through wallets etc. to help pay for parking. This service was ahead of its time I guess.