On October 28th, 2016, Massachusetts made toll collectors obsolete and introduced an all-new electronic toll system. They took down 32 toll booth locations on the Mass Pike and put up 16 electronic tolling gantries; the end of an era as some would say. But what happens to the more than 400 full-time and part-time toll collectors?
Employees were offered an Early Retirement Incentive Program (ERIP),cash stipend in lieu of that ERIP, or were given priority consideration for other MassDOT jobs. The agency says that they have committed $750,000 for career training and education. The employees were offered licensing courses in hoisting, CDL, etc. More than 100 workers have been certified through the Career Services Centers, and some have chosen to seek work in the private sector or with other government agencies.
477 current part-time and full-time toll collectors are being impacted by this change to all-electronic tolling. About 120 of them have taken new jobs with MassDOT, or are transitioning to other jobs within MassDOT. About 146 employees have taken retirement or early retirement offers. The remaining 211 collectors will be laid off.
Today was a very sad day for me, as I drove through interchange 3 and saw the beginning stages of the demolition. As a seasonal toll collector, I can honestly say I will miss my fellow toll collectors and every one I met during my time with MassDOT.
While I've heard more negative things than I can count about toll collectors, all I have to say about my coworkers are positive things. The toll collectors I've met were always welcoming, friendly, and genuine. They became much like family to me during my time at MassDOT and even after I left, we stayed in touch. I am glad to have moved on from the tolls, but the people I will forever be grateful for the people I met.
So to my friends, my fellow toll collectors, you will be missed, by myself and by many others. I wish you the best in your future endeavors.
There were good days and bad days, but my coworkers always did their best to make the bad days better. There were pranks played, meals cooked, and laughs shared during many of my eight hour shifts at MassDOT. A few of my coworkers know things about me that I don't often share because spending countless hours in a small booth together genuinely allows you to get to know someone. It was a great job, where you got to meet many people, and it was never really difficult to get through work.
Toll collectors meet thousands, perhaps millions of people over the years. Many of those people come and go daily, and you genuinely get to know someone one, 5-to-10 second transaction at a time. Heck, I know one toll collector who actually met his wife working at the tolls.
I know it may not seem like a significant interaction, but for some, seeing a toll collector on the morning commute was one of the brightest parts of the day. I don't know about you, but I will absolutely miss my friends on my morning commute. Getting on the pike was always a pleasant experience for me, I was greeted with a smile every time and often stopped for a minute or two to chat with the toll collectors. For me, as a toll collector I will miss my patrons, and I know many of them will miss the friendly faces when getting on the Mass Pike.
And I have to wonder, who's going to give travelers directions? Or restaurant recommendations?