TAMPA – Anyone still using one of those old, battery-operated SunPass transponders, take note: Starting Friday, they are officially obsolete.
Sensors at Florida’s Turnpike toll booths will no longer connect with the battery-operated devices of yesteryear. Instead, motorists using them will receive a toll bill in their snail mail.
For more than two years now, Florida’s Turnpike staff has been emailing, writing letters and warning SunPass users through the media to switch out those old transponders — last produced around 2008 — or lose connection.
While 1.7 million SunPass customers have upgraded to new, slimmer devices, the Florida Department of Transportation says thousands have yet to make the switch.
As many as 100,000 SunPass customers are still driving around with old transponders fastened to their windshields.
Just how many SunPass users live in the Tampa Bay region and how many have yet to switch to either the mini transponder or the portable hard case transponder with suction cups is unknown, said Chad Huff, spokesman for Florida’s Turnpike.
But he said the statewide initiative started in 2013 to get people to switch has been a major success. This week’s publicity is just about catching up with procrastinators who have yet to make the upgrade.
Those upgrades, free through SunPass, are connected to a federal mandate requiring states to use technology that can work beyond their borders by Oct. 1, 2016.
“The change in technology is necessary as Florida continues its efforts toward regional and national toll interoperability,” said Diane Guitierrez-Scaccetti, executive director of Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise which operates SunPass.
So far, Florida’s SunPasses connect with toll booths in Georgia and in North Carolina. A plan to connect South Carolina is in the works. Others will be connected later, Huff said. SunPasses also can be used already for parking at major airports in Florida and on Interstate 95 express toll lanes.
While those who have failed to make the switch can still be billed via their license tag, Florida’s Turnpike would rather avoid that option, Huff said. “We don’t want to be in that business. It’s much easier if they just take care of business” and switch to a modern transponder, he said.
Besides, both cash and Toll by Plate are more expensive than using a SunPass. Toll by Plate, for example, charges an administrative fee of $2.50 a month.
“We understand that, particularly at this time of year, people are pulled in different directions,” Huff said. But the time is now for those who have not made the upgrade. “We’re not expecting anyone that has the older technology to go out and buy a new transponder.”
They can choose to get a mini, which fastens permanently to a windshield, or a hard-case portable SunPass at no charge, he said.
The beeps and blips made by the old SunPass transponders required batteries, but the new tags emit no noise or lights and need no batteries.
For those wishing to use SunPass for the first time, they can be purchased online at www.sunpass.com or at one of 3,100 retail locations, including Publix Super Markets, CVS Pharmacy stores, Walgreens, Amscot Financial branches and AAA South offices in Florida.
For more information, visit www.sunpasstagswap.com or call 855-TAG-SWAP.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report