Using E-Z Pass / FastLane transponders on your motorcycle or scooter

You’d think it’d be a non-issue, but it is. In fact, it can be a real pain in the ass. Sometimes they simply don’t register. You’d think they’d just wave you through since it’s not your fault, but frequently they’ll make you pay, and digging your money out of a riding suit can be a major hassle, especially if you thought you weren’t going to need it. So, if you’re riding a motorcycle and have an E-Z Pass / FastLane transponder. Here’s how to use it without headaches.

Step 1

Make sure your motorcyle’s plate is associated with your transponder. This is critical as you’ll see in a second.

Step 2

Whenever it is an option, avoid lanes that let you pay cash. If you’re riding with a group just go through the pass-only lane and pull over to wait for everyone else.

Step 3

Never, ever, stick it in the breast pocket of your jacket. I realize this is the obvious place for it, but for some reason this almost guarantees it won’t register. My recommendation is to either put it in the map pocket of your tank bag (so that there’s only the thin piece of plastic between it and the receiver), or attach it to the inside of your windshield. I emphasize “attach” because I had mine wedged in tightly between the windshield and the plastic behind the gauge console, and after a while the vibrations, combined with the pressure it was wedged between the plastics, and a small bump made it shoot out, flip in the air, and, thank the gods, get caught on a small shelf inside my fairing. Thankfully I was approaching a red light where I could reach in and grab it before it fell to the road. You can get spare / replacement fasteners from the state you purchased it from.

Now, the reason Step 1 is so critical, is that sooner or later the little piece of crap isn’t going to work. By that I mean you’ll go through a booth and it won’t register at all (I’ve had a booth attendant stand there waving it about in there air with no response, or maybe it’ll register red even though at the last toll booth it was green). If your plate is already on your account then when you go through, and it doesn’t register, the cameras will take a pic of your plate, they’ll look it up, see that you have an account and just bill it normally. Combine this with Step 2 and you can go through without worry of a ticket, or of ever being asked to take off your gloves to dig through pockets (especially evil when your money’s in your pants and you’re wearing a one piece).

On a related note: I have heard many people say “make sure it’s right side up”. It makes no difference if it is right side up or not. First off, they’re back-side up when properly attached to a windshield. Second is the physics of how they work. Transponders work by creating a magnetic field at the reader. There is a coil of metal wires inside of the transponder. When you move a coil of wire through a magnetic field you get electricity, which powers the rfid tag. The little bugger is going to get powered up regardless of what direction it’s facing in. What’s important is that there is nothing between it and the reader, because while it does have power, it still generates a pretty weak signal. *

*If anyone knows more details, or has evidence that I’ve made a mistake about these transponders please comment below.