The New Jersey Turnpike Authority admits it lost $439,000 in 2009 because of human error and theft. And last year toll collectors' cash drawers came up short another $359,000.
The turnpike authority says many drivers were also overcharged, which overall probably kept the turnpike's losses a lot lower.
(Toll collectors have also been accused of intimidating drivers. One collector told a woman using a wrong lane that she would be strip searched.)
The Turnpike Authority is accepting proposals from private vendors to take over toll collection, one of the conditions being that the vendor will have to make up for any shortages. Happily, 75% of the toll collection is now electronic so more accurate and will gradually phase out manual collection. When that happens, I'll miss those sometimes friendly, sometimes surly men and women because they are, at least, oases on lonely, dark winter morning commutes. Remember the sitcom "Dear John", and Ralph the toll-collector? "These civilians", he would contemptuously say of car drivers -- sitting aloof from them and the traffic, cocooned in his little booth.