More Than a Feeling

The New Year always brings changes. Take, for example, the change that took place Jan. 1 on the Illinois State Toll Highway. No, not tougher regulations for erratically driving FIBs, but rather a fifty percent increase in tolls for any driver that does not have an I-PASS transponder stuck to their windshield.

An I-PASS is an electronic transponder that allows motorists who have them to zip through the toll plazas faster than those paying cash. Upon each pass, the toll is deducted from a pre-paid account. To get an I-PASS, you pay $50. Ten pays for the device, and the remaining forty steadily dwindles each time you drive through a toll plaza. When your account dips below $10, your credit card is automatically charged for more toll money. It's kind of like when your parents put more money in your Marquette Cash account after you do a few nights of "campus recreation" at Murphy's.

For those of us who don't have I-PASSes, life becomes a lot more difficult. Not only will we have to wait in the manual toll lanes while FIBs whiz by and laugh at our Wisconsin plates, but we will also have to pay DOUBLE what those I-PASS-toting-Cubs-loving-say-I'm-from-Chicago-when-I'm-actually-from-Palos-Heights-FIBs will be paying. Now I'm mad.

My first reaction was to retaliate. Because Wisconsin will be getting screwed by Illinois every time we want to go to Six Flags, we should impose some rules of our own. First of all, any purchase made by an Illinois resident at the Mars Cheese Castle will go up fifty percent. Also, en route to Lake Geneva and Door County, Wisconsin, every FIB will have to drive the speed limit on our freeways ("free" being the operative word). Also, the Brewers will automatically get a ten-run lead every time the Cubs play in Milwaukee. I think it's only fair.

However, as it turns out, this toll increase is not being implemented for the sole purpose of pissing us off. In fact, Illinois is doing this because it needs $5.3 billion so it can embark on a freeway expansion that's meant to "ease congestion." That seems like a good idea, until you look at the traffic situation logically.

The way Illinois sees it, if more drivers use the I-PASS, fewer people will have to slow down at toll plazas, thus easing congestion. This is a nice little plan if you're a moron, because in reality traffic congestion and delays happen because too many people on the freeways drive like jerks. The minute one person taps their breaks, the whole chain of traffic backs up. Then there's accidents, which also cause heavy delays. According to smartmotorist.com, 95% of traffic accidents happen because of driver behavior. So no matter what you have stuck on your windshield, Illinois, you'll always be in for a hellish commute until you learn some driving manners. We call you FIBs for a reason, you know. But hey, there's hope. It is 2005, and someday soon we might all be wearing jet packs. Until then, I'm refusing to drive through Illinois. I'll hitch a ride with someone else and make them pay the toll.

This article appeared in The Marquette Tribune on Jan. 20 2005.