How to beat those pesky automatic toll-road charges if you’re driving a rental

Richmond San Rafael bridge
Readers share their experience with toll roads and how to avoid them if possible.
(Ben Margot / AP)

Regarding the article on the Hertz settlement with the San Francisco city attorney’s office because of charges on the rental car transponder (“A $32 Golden Gate Bridge Fee?,” Need to Know, by Catharine Hamm, Feb. 24), here’s one strategy: A couple years ago, my husband and I flew into Boston’s Logan Airport. At the rent-a-car pickup we asked the employee how we could leave the airport without driving across the bridge that would begin the daily transponder charge. He did not know or wouldn’t tell.

But we knew. Before leaving California, I had gone online and researched the cities on our route from Boston to Quebec City, Canada; to Freeport, Maine; and return to Logan. I searched for all the places we would be that had transponder-required (no cash) toll roads/bridges and then figured out how to avoid them.

This was not the first time I had done this. I had successfully researched Buffalo, N.Y./Niagara Falls/Toronto/Buffalo a few years earlier. The information is available to all who search.

Finding the free way out of Logan was difficult, because the signs send you to the transponder-required toll bridge, but we had taken notes and were able to leave and return without getting trapped into paying the fee. I now do this on all trips. It’s worth the effort.


Barbara Ann Snyder



I rented a car at the Tampa, Fla., airport. It was a terrible experience all around. When the employee offered the SunPass used in Florida, he did not indicate that choosing not to use it would turn out to be highly regrettable. I had never driven in Florida and did not realize how many highways and bridges charge tolls. I declined the SunPass.


A few weeks after returning home, I received a bill that showed $10 in toll fees and an $105 administrative fee. I called the company and insisted on speaking with a supervisor after getting nowhere with the customer representative. The agency eventually agreed to meet me halfway and cut the administrative fee in half.

Still highway robbery, but it’s those painful lessons that we remember, right?

Christine Williams


Editor’s note: To see other reader responses to toll-road woes, go to

Missing flights

In her piece about missing an airline flight (“Missed Flight, Costly Lesson,” On the Spot, March 10), Catharine Hamm suggested that if you cannot make a flight for whatever reason, call the airline and seek to reason with it to modify the booking, get credit for a return flight or both.

The best response is the opposite: Do not call, beg or plead; consider that you got a good deal, even if you didn’t, and that the money is gone. The exception is where taxes are substantial and, in many cases, are more than the fare, then by all means call the carrier to have the taxes returned to you, because airlines do not pay taxes on flights you do not take. I’ve heard the price is not divided between fare and taxes on international flights, but it is in the U.S.


Dean Monroe

Washington, D.C.


As I book a fare, I often see less than one hour between connections. In airports such as Chicago, Newark, N.J., Houston and even San Francisco, less than one hour can be a challenge for even the very able-bodied. I refuse to play this game and make sure I have ample time to make it from one flight to the next, depending on the connecting airport.

Paul Brown

Santa Ana

All that jazz

Although I loved your team report on San Diego (“San Diego Rocks,” by Calvin B. Alagot, Mary Forgione, Catharine Hamm, Anne Harnagel and Christopher Reynolds, March 10), you missed out big time on the great jazz scene, particularly a free event every Wednesday evening at Panama 66 in Balboa Park.


The Young Lions Jazz Series is a youth conservatory (classes are taught at Liberty Station) led by Gilbert Castellanos (horn) and bassist Rob Thorsen. The youths, ages 12 to 18-plus, perform from 6 to 8 p.m. in the patio for jazz-loving listeners, then the grownups and youths move inside for two more hours of fantastic free jam sessions by some of San Diego’s top musicians. There’s also great jazz at the Westgate Hotel and a few other venues around town.

Leslie A. Westbrook



Get our weekly Escapes newsletter