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Starts & Stops

Drivers of rental cars still liable for paying tolls on Tobin Bridge

Car rental companies have devised various ways to deal with the new, all-electronic tolling on Tobin Bridge.John Blanding/Boston Globe/Globe Staff

The Tobin Bridge switched to all-electronic tolling last week, which means that drivers who travel over the bridge must either pay with an E-ZPass transponder, or have the fee charged to the address registered with their license plate number.

Now, many drivers are wondering, what happens now when you drive a rental car over the bridge? Is the bill sent to the rental company, and does the driver get away without paying a toll?

The short answer: In your dreams. Rental car companies have already figured this problem out — and they certainly won’t be the ones stuck with the bill.


The details vary slightly among companies, but here’s the gist: They offer E-ZPasses to customers for a per-diem rate, the same as they do if a driver wants a GPS device to accompany them on their journey.

Hertz charges $4.95 per day for the E-ZPass, while Enterprise charges $3.95 per day, according to company customer service representatives. The toll charges are billed to the customer. Sometimes, those charges are settled when the car is returned to the rental center. In other cases, the fee is paid weeks later, either in a bill mailed to the customer or an automatic charge to the customer’s credit card.

Vehicles rented in the Boston region through Zipcar, the popular pay-by-the-hour car rental service, are almost all equipped with E-ZPass transponders. Once Zipcar gets an invoice for the fees owed from the trip, it bills that amount to the member’s account.

“There’s no surcharge for using the passes — we’ll just bill your account for the actual toll amount,” the company’s website says. “Please note that it can take up to 3 weeks for toll charges to come in, so you will be billed separately from your reservation.”

But what happens if you opt out of the rental company’s E-ZPass, or you drive an out-of-state rental car that does not offer transponders? If your name is not affiliated with the car’s registration, will it ever reach you?


According to Michael Verseckes, spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, “pay-by-plate” invoices are typically directed to the rental company. Then, the company has a maximum of 30 days to provide contact information for the customer who incurred the charges; a new invoice will be sent to that customer.

Renters can also fill out a “Rental/Lease Company Transaction Reassignment” form that transfers upfront the responsibility for the car’s tolls to the person who is renting the vehicle.

In either of those cases, the company may tack on an extra fee — a fee that is likely much more sizable than the extra $1 that everyone must pay now if they cross the Tobin without an E-ZPass.

Still, paying a rental company’s daily fee for an E-ZPass transponder can feel like you’re being taken for a ride (no pun intended), especially when you can get a transponder free in the mail when you register for an E-ZPass account.

Which brings us to a final, take-the-bull-by-the-horns option: Order your own E-ZPass, then add the rental car’s registration information onto your account. The only catch is that you must remove the rental car from the account within 48 hours after it is returned to the rental company.

Or, as one reader suggested, here’s another idea: Take a different route into downtown Boston.


Just another day on the T

There’s no other way to put it: It was a weird photo.

Last Sunday, Twitter in Boston went wild over a cellphone photo captured by journalist Rachel Lebeaux (@rachjournalist) on the MBTA that showed — wait for it — a guy shaving another guy’s beard. It looked sort of like a scene from a barbershop, except the customer was sitting in an Orange Line seat, and he was receiving a very close, very dry shave with a disposable razor.

This tweeted cellphone photo of one man giving a shave to another while riding an MBTA Orange Line train went viral in Boston.<a href="http://twitter.com/rachjournalist">@rachjournalist</a>

The photo was retweeted so many times that the MBTA Transit Police eventually chimed in with their own message: “#MBTA etiquette: Please refrain from shaving your fellow passenger while traveling on T. Thx.” Others wondered, what would happen if either man were jostled? A gruesome dissection in the making?

Admittedly, it was an unusual scenario. But, it turns out, maybe not all that unusal.

A journey back into the archives reveals that shaving yourself on a train, in front of others, used to be pretty normal — at least according to an April 14, 1935, Globe interview with Phil Troy, the traveling secretary of the Red Sox.

His job, as described in the article: “For seven months of the year it falls to him to cart $2,000,000 worth of ball players over the country for the Boston Red Sox, to quarter them carefully in Pullmans and hotels and to see that they get places on time.”

It turns out that Troy was something of an expert on transit-shaving. “The business of shaving on a train is one of Troy’s pet subjects,” the article read.


His advice was to stand facing the engine or the back of the train because, he told the reporter, “when you stand sideways, you are going to sway with the motion of the train.”

“We had a young ballplayer who gave me the ‘up-country’ when I told him how to stand and he continued to use the mirrors in the side walls of the train,” Troy said. “He learned, though.”

A harried engineer looking to make up time on a late train decided to take a curve at 90 miles per hour, Troy recalled. The baseball player, mid-shave, was unprepared.

“Mr. Smarty lurched sideways as the train swung, the razor went flying out of his hand — right past his throat — and imbedded itself in the seat cushions,” Troy said. “He changed his stance after that.”

Martine Powers can be reached at martine.powers@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.