The Ohio Turnpike Commission crafted an online survey last year designed to find out why people use — or don’t use — the state’s only toll highway.
The answers, it turns out, are quite simple.
Most people drive on the turnpike because it’s the fastest and most convenient route. Those who don’t use it more? Well, it doesn’t go where they’re going.
As for those pesky tolls, they aren’t deterring most people from using the highway that stretches 241 miles from Pennsylvania to Indiana across northern Ohio.
More than 26,500 people participated in the survey, which collected answers to 32 questions from late November through mid-December. It was the commission’s first comprehensive travel survey.
When asked why they use the turnpike, 81 percent of respondents said it’s because the highway is the fastest route. Another 54 percent said it’s the most convenient. (More than one answer could be picked.)
So why don’t some people use the turnpike?
Seventy-one percent said it’s because the highway doesn’t go to their destination. Nine percent said the tolls are too high and 8 percent said they didn’t want to pay a toll.
Meanwhile, 64 percent said tolls don’t affect how often they travel the turnpike, which is used by about 50 million vehicles a year.
When asked what changes could be made so they would use the highway more, 61 percent suggested lower tolls and 21 percent cited fewer construction zones.
Tolls are slated to increase over the next decade to help pay for road and bridge projects around the state. It now costs a car $17 to travel the entire turnpike — or $11.50 for those using E-ZPass.
Survey respondent Chuck Lawrence, 56, of Akron, a pharmacist at Akron Children’s Hospital, said he doesn’t take the turnpike often, but he has been impressed with the roadway on recent trips.
He said traffic flows well with three lanes, and he likes the cleanliness and food options available at the rest stops.
“The travel plazas have definitely improved over the years,” Lawrence said.
He was a bit surprised, though, at the cost to go from Akron to the Indiana border: $12.75.
Lawrence doesn’t use E-ZPass, which offers a discount, because he doesn’t take the turnpike enough for it to be worthwhile, he said.
Only 52 percent of people participating in the survey knew that using E-ZPass is cheaper than paying with cash or credit. That was one of the most surprising findings for the commission.
“Individuals didn’t seem to realize there is a cost savings,” turnpike spokeswoman Lauren Hakos said. “We think we’ve done a good job promoting that. Maybe we need to do a better job.”
She added that the commission is pleased with the overall results because it doesn’t seem that many people are avoiding the turnpike.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.