Pondering The Transponder: Sell Your Soul, Pay The Toll

Following Frazgo’s November 9 post announcing the somewhat chagrin-filled arrival of toll lanes that have now turned a stretch of the 110 Freeway (and soon part of the 10 Freeway) into a Costway, I whatthehell’d it and decided to drink the koolaid and go get myself outfitted with one of the required tracking devices so my vehicular movements and non-movements could be monitored by 24/7 by the MTA and Caltrans, AAA via a combination of roadway implant receivers and suborbital satellites. Oops! Sorry!! My inherent schizoid-based distrust of any transmitters forced upon us by the government is showing. Let me zip that up. What I really meant to call the technology was “The completely harmless and entirely loveable Metro Expresslane FasTrak Transponder.”

Anyway, it’s not like I really need one. I’m rarely on the 110 and even rarer in its HOV lanes so my initial reaction was basically “fuck that bullshit” followed by about eight exclamation points.

Then my resolve weakened when the doomsday scenario occurred to me that there might come that anxiety-ridden day when I’m stuck southbound on the gridlocked Harbor coming through Exposition Park, 149 hopeless minutes away from a flight at LAX that’s leaving in 91 minutes. At that moment somewhere in a bunker deeeeeeeep under the city an MTA operative monitoring my biometric activity being sent via the chip embedded in the TAP card in my wallet smiled and told a failsafe colleague “We’ve almost got another one!”

But what sent me completely over to the other side? A lousy eight buck discount. Seriously I logged on to the Metro Expresslane website still fighting the good fight, but surrendered and sold out because of a banner ad on the home page telling me that out of the goodness of its gasoline-powered heart, the AAA was stepping in as a middleman and offering transponders directly to its cherished members at a discount off the initial charge required to set-up the devices; $32 instead of $40. So I biked over there to the company’s palatial headquarters on Figueroa and Adams yesterday afternoon and in a few minutes my AAA card, TAP card and the FasTrak transponder had triangulated frequencies and I had assimilated into the Borg.

Mostly. Before I fully surrender my distinctiveness to the collective — or more accurately: “Tollective” — I have an important protip for anyone else in the resistance who succumbs by taking the AAA up on its offer. Don’t — repeat do not — go to the Metro Expresslane website after taking possession of the unit to register the device. Unless Metro’s modified the site since yesterday to accommodate supplicants who have transponders in hand, the site is only set up to take your money and send you a transponder. Instead, call the 877/224-6511 number and wait the inordinate amount of time it takes to get a customer service representative on the other end who can set up an account without double-charging you. It’s worth getting to a human voice to avoid that frustration — or maybe I should say “remarkably lifelike” voice.



4 thoughts on “Pondering The Transponder: Sell Your Soul, Pay The Toll”

  1. The site actually has a link to activate transponders from AAA now.

    “If you picked up your FasTrak at a AAA branch or a Costco or Albertsons location, then click here to complete the registration process.”

  2. It’s highly unlikely that i will ever need to use toll lanes, although I may ask one of the folks at my local AAA office if I could just look at a transponder to see what all the fuss is about. As for the “guv’mint” tracking our every move, I think that many of the people who worry about this aspect of toll lanes are flattering themselves to think that anybody in officialdom really cares about where they are. For a different take on fare media for tracking purposes, I recommend the book “Little Brother” by Cory Doctorow. The “target public” for this book is readers in the “Young Adult” category, but I found it a worthwhile addition to my library.

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