TollBooth Manufacturing: The Best Bang for Your Booth

While we’re usually accustomed to overlooking those standard tollbooths that grace our many highways with their blaring signs of how much we owe for the pleasure of cruising by, these traditional roadside accessories need not remain in the ugly domain.

Being that they are ubiquitous, why settle for dull and dreary if you can aim for sleek and snazzy?

So what’s new in the tollbooth manufacturing world, and how can you get the sharpest look plus the coolest features?

Tollbooths for Sale: put the fab in prefab

Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all solutions. Today, there are options. And some really good ones at that, to improve the general security of a booth, to add modern conveniences, and even enhance the aesthetics.

tollbooths

  • Color and style
    None of that nondescript, colorless booth whose sole purpose is utility. Today you can choose from north of 100 color options, and customize the exterior with writing of any sort, from highway name to toll pricing to safety instructions. Using vinyl wrapping for the booth adds extra sheen and protection from scratching, and also ensures the color doesn’t fade as easily.
  • Heating and Cooling
    In order to allow workers to be most effective, maintaining a comfortable environment is key. Baseboard heating allows for convenient temperature control without relying on an external heater which may get damaged or lost. A built-in A/C unit means no more portable fans that tend to do a skimpy job.
  • Nature’s Call
    Having a built-in restroom is not only a thoughtful addition for workers, but also a time-management consideration, as it allows employees to use the facilities without trekking into a main building and leaving the booth unmanned.
  • Exterior Additions
    Tinted windows provide extra protection from the sun and keep the booth cooler, while LED spotlights light up the surrounding area. This ensures that the area is well lit and provides another layer of security.
  • Interior Additions
    Many features can be added to the interior of a booth to make the job more comfortable for the people manning the booth. A microphone and speaker ensure that the toll collector doesn’t have to shout over the howl of the wind or the pouring rain. Booths can also be outfitted with a metal locker for storage so workers can stash their belongings, and insulation to better combat the elements. You can also add an intercom system, a built-in garbage can and a wall-mounted cigarette butt receptacle.

And that’s not all. Booths are getting snazzier and more innovative as you’re reading this. They can be designed with creative designs like all-mirror in order to better blend in with the environment, or with ballistic/blast resistant material which can handle just about everything including a tornado.

Bullet proof booth

But while booths are appearing in increasingly diverse fields and options, as the myriad design choices reveal, the original tollbooth itself is in danger of becoming obsolete. 

Cashless, Boothless Roads

Cashless tollbooth on North Grand Island Bridge

As we rush deeper into the automation era, what some are calling ‘the fourth industrial revolution,’ it’s no surprise that tollbooths are finding their way onto endangered and extinct infrastructure lists around the world, as private industries and state governments are replacing the conventional toll collector with electronic devices. 

Transportation officials claim this development aids efficiency, saves taxpayer dollars, and increases road safety. While many states have begun incorporating an electronic option for tolls, a few, such as California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, and Texas have completely replaced traditional tolls with a cashless option on a number of roads and bridges.

Although the efficiency of cashless tolls is undeniable, other concerns are being raised by unions regarding job loss as many toll collectors find their labor is, in fact, replaceable.

“Technology is great, but there’s that human factor,” says Kevin McCarthy, who represents the NJ Turnpike workers, in an interview with Governing. “The reality is you’re putting people out of work.”  

Unions aren’t the only protesters at the ‘save the tollbooth’ demonstration. Privacy activists worry that toll devices and cameras invade their privacy and track their movements.

“We would like drivers to have the choice of being able to pay in cash or electronically,” says John Bowman, vice president of a drivers’ rights group. “There are people who don’t want a transponder on their vehicle for privacy reasons. They don’t want to be tracked where they go.”

Others have pointed at various cases where drivers have received erroneous bills for thousands of dollars because transponders malfunctioned or the technology failed. 

Another consideration is that some people like the option of seeing a person at the point of toll collection to ask a question about the toll or simply to get directions. As more aspects of daily life become automated, some are frustrated by the lack of human interaction.

But for those who are fighting for the traditional booth and collector, they are mostly met with clichés like ‘nothing stays the same,’ and ‘it’s a dying breed.’ Like elevator operators, lamplighters, footmen and Mr. Bucket’s toothpaste cap job in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, workers are told to embrace the future and ‘learn to code’ instead of collecting tolls or riding elevators. 

After all, time marches on.

R.I.P to the Tollbooth?

As these revolutionary changes occur, what is actually happening to the booth itself? 

As technology moves ever more quickly, sweeping away relics of only a few decades ago, from payphones to CD players, it seems the tollbooth is headed in the same direction of obscurity.

While some of these ancient paraphernalia are finding their way into museums alongside behemoth computers and the original Nintendo, or scrap yards for old metal, there are still those dedicated to preserving the history of the tollbooth, back in the day when roads were a novelty, and therefore booths were fittingly built to adorn them.

Along the original National Road, built in the early 1800s by the federal government, two-story tollbooths with hexagonal second floors and many windows allowed toll guards to watch for travelers who came from all directions.

1933 TOLL HOUSE

Part of the Pennsylvania Turnpike from 1940 is currently preserved in the State Museum of Pennsylvania, and a piece of Connecticut’s 1930s Merritt Parkway was valiantly defended from demolition by a group of preservationists who ultimately found a home for the booth in the Henry Ford Museum. 

So while most of the world hasn’t noticed or cared, there are still small pockets of tollbooth defenders fighting the good fight to save this tiny sliver of society’s collective experience.

Tollbooth at Old Massachusetts Turnpike Authority

Why bother with the tollbooth?

Because it preserves a bit of history, of a time when roads were magnificent and their toll infrastructure as well, says David Carris, a preservationist who fought on behalf of the Merritt Parkway booths in the 1980s. Gripped by nostalgia for those Sunday drives which included tossing a dime into the wooden cabin along the highway, Carris explains his motive: “They make you stop,” he says simply. “One of the unique experiences of entering and leaving a gated city was going through the city gates. In a way, there was a ritual associated with tollbooths of entering and leaving the city, and it’s an important human experience that we’re losing in this age of E-ZPass.”

While the tollbooth may be fading from contemporary life, why not bling it up a bit for now so that in another hundred years or so, some preservationists will fight to save your booth from the scrap heap.

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