San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Electronic Highway Toll Passes Coming

Starting early this month, new tollbooths will stand in the highway between San José and Caldera. But instead of creating long lines of traffic, proponents of a new electronic toll pass hope cars can continue to pass through smoothly.

London-based bank HSBC is selling the toll passes, called TAGs, which consist of a small device drivers place on their windshields. The toll is deducted automatically as the driver passes the booth.

Drivers with HSBC accounts can enroll in the program with an initial entrance fee of $15 and a $1 monthly charge. Non-HSBC customers can create a toll pass account for $30, subject to the same $1 monthly fee as well as a minimum deposit requirement of ¢5,000 (about $8.73).

The contract required to sign up for the electronic pass has raised concerns about privacy, however, as it allows for HSBC to share clients’ personal information with third parties.

According to Gina Mitchell, head of mass consumer goods at HSBC, the information will only be shared with other banks as part of the project’s second phase.

“The information will only be shared with other banks with which HASBC creates strategic alliances,” Mitchell told The Tico Times. Only information such as name, identity card number and license plate number will be available, she said, and will be considered “bank secrets.”

Mitchell could not confirm how many toll passes had been sold to date. The daily La Nación reported Tuesday that only 1,000 passes had been sold.

While the ultimate decision lies in the hands of the Transportation Ministry, Mitchell said the toll pass program could be expanded to other highways.

The new tolls for automobiles will be ¢310 (about $0.54) at Escazú, ¢480 ($0.84) at Pozón and ¢160 ($0.28) each at Cuidad Colón and Costanera Sur.

– Patrick Fitzgerald


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