NYS License Plates Need To Be Fixed, But So Does The Plan To Fix Them

The five proposed redesigns for New York State license plates.

Earlier this week, New York State announced a plan to overhaul its current license plate design. Governor Andrew Cuomo said that the new plates will solve several issues, like the fact the current ones are peeling and can’t be read by the new cashless tolls that will permeate the state in the next few years. The plan will also give New York automobiles a uniform license plate look, as the last redesign in 2010 did not mandate that drivers surrender their old blue and white plates for the current gold and blues.

There’s a lot to unpack here, so bear with me.

--- Issue 1: We have to pay for new plates ---

One of the biggest reasons New Yorkers are howling is because the change comes with additional, mandatory fees. A two-year registration renewal costs $10 (not bad considering most meals at Burger King come to at least $8 before tax). Now, there will be a $25 fee tacked on to get whichever new design the state lands on. And if for some reason you’re attached to your current plate number? Better throw in another $20 if you want to hold onto it.

That means once this goes into effect in April 2020, anyone renewing registration will have to shell out anywhere from $35 to $55 in order to keep their cars street legal. I’d imagine these replacement fees would be a one-off, so the next time around the cost would revert back to $10 (or $30 if you have a vanity/custom plate, which is where that $20 fee originated).

All told, this part doesn’t agitate me very much. It’s a bit inconvenient but it’s fair that every driver pay their share for the new plates and the resources they require.

--- Issue 2: Will these be guaranteed to not peel? ---

Where it starts to get murky is how they plan to produce the plates. There are plenty of people driving around with trashy-looking aluminum rectangles because the paint stripped away. This seems to be a problem with late-model blues and early-edition golds, as plates nearing the 20-year-old mark still seem to be holding up well.

The state needs to ensure that whatever products they use this time will last longer. The average lifespan of a license plate is 10 years, but in my opinion they need to hold for closer to 40. We can’t have Hollywood tourists eating Cajun shrimp in a Bubba Gump when all of a sudden, the New York plate above their table drops a paint peel right onto their dish. That’s a bad look for all of us.

--- Issue 3: The designs suck ---

Here’s where my blood starts to boil. The five proposed designs for the new generation are two thumbs down.

I get the need to contrast dark text on a light background, but there has to be a better way (also, can we not achieve the same level of readability with light text on a dark background?). These designs take the state’s official color palette and turn it into an absolute snoozefest.

*editor’s note: at this point I took a three-day break from writing and everything else from here on out was written very hastily.

*author’s note: I don’t care what the editor says. Nobody is going to read this anyway so if you do make it this far, let me know and I’ll give you a dollar$

Four of the five designs also only feature something exclusively “downstate” (three with the Statue of Liberty, one with the Mario Cuomo Bridge [cough cough nepotism]). The fifth design has Niagara Falls… and the skyline of New York City (prominently featuring the Statue of Liberty). 60 percent of the state’s population goes completely unaccounted for in 80 percent of these designs. That’s pretty freakin’ ridiculous.

--- Issue 4: Will the cashless tolls actually be able to read these ---

Part of that hinges on the paint on the plates not peeling, as we previously discussed. Another part of that will be determined by the success of the cameras to detect the contrast on the plates.

And that brings up another question. Why do I need to stick an E-ZPass reader to my windshield if these new cashless tolls are actually reading my plates? What a joke. THAT’S where we’re wasting our money,  y’all.

--- Issue 5: Canadians don’t pay at cashless tolls so why should I? ---

In case you were unaware, E-ZPass does not have a contract with the governments of Ontario or Quebec. That means Canadians literally get a free ride through the cashless tolls on Grand Island (there’s A LOT of Canadians that use those bridges because, yknow, it’s so goddamn close to the border!). It's all on the honor system, which means it's like a house on Halloween with a bowl on its front porch -- the system will be abused. Redesigning these plates should be a secondary priority for the state, which should instead focus its energy on pressuring E-ZPass to finally strike a deal with Canadian agencies to bill their drivers.

--- Let’s wrap this nonsense up. ---

This redesign will likely go into effect when state plates reach the K-series. Not that that means anything, it’s just kind of a note.

Anyway, here are my sketches for what the next generation of New York State license plates should look like:

$ - limited to first four respondents and maybe bruce springsteen if he doesn’t make the first four

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