Toll Collector

Toll Collector


5 Years Experience

Brooklyn, NY

Male, 33

I spent just short of five years as a toll collector on the western end of New York State. Ask me anything, but please don't pay me in pennies.

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122 Questions


Last Answer on September 11, 2020

Best Rated

Do you get alerted by police bulletins to look out for criminal suspects on the run, and have you ever spotted anyone?

Asked by h99mer over 8 years ago

We did. Most common bulletins were vehicle descriptions. A few years back, a man named Bucky Phillips escaped a correctional facility upstate and while on the run, shot a state police officer in the middle of the state. He had relatives in the area that I worked so were on the lookout for him and any car that had been tied to him. State police officers were being called in from all across the state as it turned into an all-out manhunt. Then he shot (and killed one) two more state troopers and things got even more intense. For a few days, they doubled up staffing at our smaller stations so no one would be alone at any time. No one on our highway spotted him though, and he was apprehended once a small army descended upon him in the woods. I was working the night he was caught and a convoy of police vehicles (one of which carried him) came through our plaza, taking him back towards Buffalo. I tried to keep count the cars but they just kept flying though and I couldn't keep up. Definitely one of the more memorable nights out there.

What were the most common peeves you and your employees had with drivers? The stuff you guys would regularly complain to each other about....

Asked by frumunda over 8 years ago

Oh God, this could go on for a while but I suppose there were a few that stood above the rest. In our system, the ticket you're issued at your point of entry has your toll printed on it. During my last few years, the toll due (along with my collector number) was even displayed on the EZ-Pass 'Christmas Tree' light stand just beyond the booth. But two general rules apply- people don't look at signs and they definitely don't read things handed to them unless absolutely necessary. So as the hours pile up and each car pulls up with a 'how much is it?' we start to get a little worn down. Now people are fully within their rights to ask us how much it is, but our main objectives are to move traffic quickly and collect tolls accurately. If people were just a little proactive before they reach the booth, everybody wins. It's like the guys who stare out into space while they're twenty cars deep. get to the booth, can't find their ticket, need to undo their seatbelt as they get their wallet out of their back pocket, etc. We're all here, we're paying tolls, no one is happy about it, and absolutely no one is happy about waiting to pay tolls. So if we were a little more prepared, we could keep this line moving. Another big pet peeve is directions. If you have twenty cars behind you, this is not a good time to ask for directions. And if you do ask for directions, please don't start to pull away as I'm explaining the route to you. I used to play a game with people when they started to creep by just stopping mid-sentence and staring. If they stopped, I continued. If they kept moving forward, oh well. Dirty change was another one. We all understand that money is money, and we will accept your money, but this is a grimy job as is, without pennies coated in fast food grease, dirt, and other unidentifiable substances. Those are just some of the big ones.

I once heard that cops could issue speeding tickets WITHOUT actually clocking someone on a radar gun if the car made it from one toll booth to another faster than would have been possible without speeding. Do you know anything about that?

Asked by burnsM over 8 years ago

Boy, I've never heard of that. In our system, tickets were stamped with entry and exit times so I guess the information could be available but I'm not sure if I see that holding up in court.

Are you allowed to listen to music in the tollbooth?

Asked by six6six over 8 years ago

Yep! There are usually a few portable stereos hanging around the stations for those that want to listen to the radio. More enterprising collectors brought iPod docks. Electronics were a bit of a gray area and all collectors are supposed to be monitoring the intercom that is in every booth, so it's really important to not drown everything out.

I'm appalled to hear that someone asked you "Is this what you're going to do for the rest of your life?" How did you respond to that? If you didn't tell him off, you're a better person than most.

Asked by Myra over 8 years ago

At the time he asked I think it was around 2-3 in the morning and I wasn't particularly interested in getting into it with him. I think I muttered a 'yup', gave him his change and turned away. It stung. People find themselves in places for a myriad of reasons and to have that guy bring my entire life to judgement at that moment hurt.

Has anyone ever exhibited some total random act of kindness with you when you were in the booth? Maybe during the holidays, a driver who gave you a tip or a cookie or a cupcake or something like that?

Asked by Hutcher over 8 years ago

Sure! I actually was offered snacks from cars with some frequency. Don't get me wrong, there are a ton of very decent people out there and as long as it was sealed up or I felt okay about how it looked, I usually took it. Probably the best random act of kindness I encountered was from an older lady who gave me a twenty for her toll. She told me that she didn't want any of her change back, and to let the next people go on her. The look on the next few drivers' faces was priceless. I enjoyed it too, because toll collectors rarely get to give good news! One guy missed out though because he was in a big rush and just dropped his money into my hands and sped off without a word. Never hurts to say hello...

When toll fees would increase, would drivers take it out on you and demand answers ? What would you say? Were you instructed by your superiors on what to say in those instances?

Asked by Very Zano over 8 years ago

Those were unpleasant days, for sure. We had one three-year stretch where the tolls increased three times. During the first hike, local radio stations were organizing a mass 'pay your toll in pennies' protest. Seemed kind of counter-productive to me since the only people being hurt were collectors and toll-paying patrons, but whatever. People would constantly ask about why the tolls were going up but we never had an official reason to give them. I guess we could have cited ' Capital Improvements' but I don't think anyone really did. Our bosses put up signs on the booth about a week in advance that said 'New Toll Rates in Effect' and that was about it. The only instance I can recall in which we had a specific response was when Native Americans didn't want to pay their toll, but I never encountered a situation that I needed to cite it. (Not that i would have remembered it anyway)