Florida's SunPass

Floridians rank SunPass #1

Florida SunPass
••• formulanone / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

One spring, South Florida's radio station Majic 102.7 asked listeners to rank the technology they couldn't live without. The "Question of the Day" segment had become the sounding board for listeners of the "Rick & Donna in the Morning" show and visitors to the station's website, www.MagicMiami.com. Many responses that spring day were what you would expect of this techno generation — cell phones with cameras (26%), TiVo (12%) and GPS (10%).

However, there was one huge surprise. The overwhelming responses that day regarding the technology they couldn't live without was SunPass with 49 percent of the vote!

Why do Floridians love their SunPass? Read on.

What is SunPass?

A SunPass is an electronic gizmo (transponder) that attaches to your windshield, allowing you to drive through designated SunPass, E-Pass and O-Pass lanes. The tolls are automatically deducted from a prepaid account.

Also, now visitors to Miami International, Orlando International, Palm Beach International and Tampa International Airports can pay for airport parking with SunPass. Visitors to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami can also pay for event parking with their SunPass.

How does SunPass work?

There is no need to have exact change or wait for the tollbooth operator to give you change. SunPass allows you to cruise by at speeds of up to 25 m.p.h. while others wait in the cash lanes.

Once attached to your windshield, the transponder transmits a radio signal to sensors mounted on the SunPass toll lanes themselves. Instantly, the transponder relays the proper toll amount and deducts it from your prepaid account.

The original transponder had three lights: red, yellow and green. It also had an audio buzzer.

Specific combinations of the lights and audio let you know when a toll was paid, when you have a low balance or when the transponder needed a new battery. The newer portable transponder affixes to your windshield, but does not have lights or emit beeping sounds.

The newest transponder, the SunPass Mini, does not use batteries and does not have lights or emit beeping sounds. About the size of a credit card and about as thin, this transponder sticks to your windshield and cannot be moved from one vehicle to another.

The transponder and SunPass Mini will only work when affixed to glass windshields. Neither are designed for use on motorcycles.

How do I get a SunPass?

You can purchase a SunPass for $19.99 (plus tax) online and at any of these locations — CVS Pharmacies, Publix Supermarkets, AAA Auto Club South, Navarro Discount Pharmacy, Sedano's Markets, Walgreen's, Amscot, and Turnpike service plazas.

The SunPass Mini is also available online for $4.99, and at the same locations.

Now what do I do?

You are required to set up a SunPass or SunPass Mini account with a minimum starting balance of $10.00.

To set up an account:

  • Purchase your SunPass online. You will need your license plate number, driver's license number and a credit card. Your SunPass will be mailed to you.

How do I replenish my SunPass?

When your SunPass drops below the "low balance" threshold or less, your SunPass transponder will emit a high-low-high-low tone. If you have a credit card on file, the SunPass Service Center automatically replenishes your account with a pre-set amount determined by you at the time of enrollment. Account holders can also go online to replenish the balance on their SunPass or visit an authorized merchant near you to replenish your account with cash (a $1.50 service fee applies to cash transactions).

It's that easy! Now you see why Floridians love their SunPass. I should know, I have one... and I love it too!

What happens if I don't have a SunPass?

More and more of Florida's highways are collecting tolls by all-electronic technology.

If you don't have a SunPass and you drive a stretch of highway that has gone to all-electronic tolls, you will be charged through a new technology TOLL-BY-PLATE. A picture of your license tag will be taken, processed and you will receive a bill in the mail (a $2.50 service fee applies).