March 27th, 2013

new Kitty Norville novel and second Vlad/Leila novel

_Kitty Rocks the House_, Carrie Vaughn, book 11

A vampire priest comes to town and absorbs all of Rick/Ricardo's attention. And other people as well. Detective Jessi Hardin has heard from her counterpart(s) at Interpol that he is wanted for arson. Cormac/Amelia thinks that happened because the priest has erected a magical ward likely to manifest as flame -- and troublemakers that they are, they'd kinda like to meet whatever it is the priest doesn't want to meet. Nasser meets briefly with Rick and Kitty at the beginning of the book and a representative for a Mistress in South America arrives near the end. Those meetings involve attempts to establish allied relationships in the Long Game, but the vampire priest thing is less clear. The law of background conspiracies is that they always turn out to have an Even Bigger Bad Guy lurking in the background, and this one Obeys The Law.

Mostly fun book.

_Twice Tempted_, the second of the Vlad/Leila books by Jeaniene Frost, is all about dead people not REALLY being dead (or whatever it is that you call undead people who No Longer Exist). And vengeance. There's some sex, but all things considered, really this is a lot more about the Hotness of Revenge than the hotness of sexual attraction. Further exploration of the possibilities of magic in this world, leading to a better understanding of why it is so thoroughly Frowned Upon.

Mostly fun book. I don't see it making any sense without the preceding entry, and it fits into a larger universe that is less important (altho Cat does make a helpful appearance, as does Mencheres).

Getting Rid of Toll Booths but not Tolls

Golden Gate Bridge no longer has toll booths: they have a transponder system in California, and if you don't have a transponder, they'll take a picture of your license plate and bill you.

Massachusetts is working towards this goal statewide:

Under the current system, as near as I can tell, you have to have a plate, a vehicle, in order to get a transponder, but once you have a transponder, you can use it in rental vehicles (by adding the plate to your account for the duration of the rental and then taking the plate back off the account when you are done with it). R. got his transponder through NY when he lived in NH and says that at least at that time, you weren't supposed to use it in rental cars. One hopes that it will become possible to get a transponder without having to have a plate, a car at the time of sign-up.

But you never know. The 520 bridge toll system is transponder free (as near as I can tell), entirely plate based. You can set up accounts, and rentals are handled under "Short Term Account". I think.

One wonders what happens if you use two different ZipCars in the same weekend.

ETA: I don't take the jobs argument (toll takers will lose their jobs taking tolls, altho the states are making an effort to transfer them to other jobs in the transportation department) very seriously, largely because I view toll taking as a hideously dangerous occupation that _should_ be automated out of existence as soon as possible.

ETAYA: New Hampshire has been reducing staffing at low use times of day (night).

You still owe the toll, even if you don't have a transponder. If you don't have change, you can pick up an envelope and mail in your toll.

ETA Still More: Maine has added some high speed tolling, but this coverage gives an indication of how dangerous this transitional period between stop-and-pay and electronic drive-thru (fast or slow) tolling can be to users as well as toll takers.

"The authority's greatest fear -- it has happened in other states -- is that a cash-paying driver could mistakenly enter a highway-speed toll lane and try to stop, back up and pull over after realizing their error.

Morin said that has been seen at the York toll plaza, where drivers who mistakenly get into an E-ZPass lane stop and walk over to another booth to pay a toll taker."

There is some serious fucked-up-stupid here in New England. I saw a teenager crossing Highway 3 in Nashua (probably going from one high school to the other?). I cannot tell you how many times I have seen people miss their exit, pull over, and then back up to take it. I spent three decades in the Seattle area without _ever_ seeing either behavior (half that time I was a driver), but while it continues to strike me as irremediably bad judgment, I've started to anticipate which cars are going to do something foolish at exits.

Link Fu about Massachusetts Toll Automation, other toll issues (rental cars)

Safer, faster to pay back and, as my sister has noted, deals with holiday delays. Modification to the new union contract in negotiations to allow it to happen.

(That may be behind a paywall. Sorry.)

Summary of what other states are doing.

"Toll authorities have spent two decades refining issues such as billing rental car drivers and collecting from people who ignore bills, especially across state lines, with mixed success, Samuel said, but the benefits far outweigh complications.

“It’s pretty clear that it is a more economical way of collecting tolls . . . than paying people to sit in a tollbooth,” said Samuel, likening toll collectors to elevator operators. “It’s just one of those jobs that’s not really needed anymore.”"

This one raises the "specter" of tolls on currently "free" roads. I don't like that frame. Someone is paying for those roads; I'd just as soon have more of the cost be paid by the people who actually use the roads.

Few if any of these articles are directly addressing "Big Brother" concerns -- but that crops up reliably in the comments. I seem to recall reading something in the LA Times a while back about a guy who was wrongly convicted of something-or-other because of the testimony of a truly awful woman, and who eventually cleared himself in part because of some electronic toll records.

ETA: This isn't about Massachusetts; it's about rental cars and plate-recognition tolls, however.

Some complaints about PlatePass in my area over on FlyerTalk:

Florida and Rental Cars:

Consumer Reports advice on how to deal with the markup of toll collection systems on rental cars, from 2011:

How to avoid rental toll markups when crossing Golden Gate:

More about possible future tolling in Massachusetts, those scofflaws (!!) in Connecticut, a fascinating glimpse in bi/multi-lateral agreements to collect tolls from drivers across state lines . . .