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Technology takes a toll on toll collectors

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Ever since the Great Recession started more than five years ago, Americans have paid closer attention to how we bring in a paycheck every two weeks. But the American labor market started changing long before the financial crisis. Today we continue our series on “Disappearing Jobsthat examines the changing job market.

I actually started out as a toll collector on the highway, on the parkway.

The job is relatively repetition. I remember one time during an eight-hour shift, I was in one of the busiest lanes and I banked out over $3,000 in the course of eight hours. And the toll was 25 cents back then. That was a lot, of course. And I came home and my shoulder was sore — because you’re making that same motion to grab the money and make change.

Back then, there was no EZ-Pass, so it was a lot of traffic coming through and all sorts of different people coming through and you had regulars and constant traffic.

Now with the EZ-Pass I would suspect it takes up…EZ-Pass uses 70 to 80 percent of all traffic on the parkway.

You saw the manual lanes where the collector was doing less cars. And over the next five, six, seven years, traffic dropped a lot. Some jobs are just outsourced or technology takes over. In this case, technology has taken over. Video toll, EZ-Pass, cashless tolling and eventually, there’ll be no more collectors. And when that happens, people need to be prepared.

It’s been sometimes a little stressful, you wonder how much time you have to go, you wonder how much time before they pull the rug out from underneath you and say okay, no more jobs. But there was a timeframe. I guess about two, three years ago they said about three to five years. So we’re almost there.

And I said, what am I going to do? I’m still going to be a relatively young man, I’ll enough time to retire with a partial pension but I’m still going to need money to make a living. And I always cooked — I was 12 years old reading cooking recipes from France. I mean, it was kind of weird. I got into it because I loved to do it and I thought gee, I can make a career of this when this toll collection career ends.

It’s funny, I make less money, I’m working twice as hard — but I’m happier.

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