Wireless toll collection systems
A Wireless Toll Collection System is a method that transportation organizations can use to relate the ideas of intelligent transportation systems to toll and roadway management. The basic concept is to eliminate the need for automobiles to stop at a conventional toll plaza, instead using wireless technology to collect the toll in real time as a car drives past a spot on the road.
This method of toll collection is seen at existing toll plazas with dedicated lanes that allow for automobiles using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, such as E-ZPass or Telepass, to pay as they pass through the gates, not even needing to stop. Some variations on the system have even eliminated the need for a toll plaza at all, instead opting to have specific parts of the road verify user information and charge accounts using their RFID cards. If a driver’s information cannot be verified, or the car is not part of the system, cameras can capture license plates numbers and mail a bill to the owner of the car.
While the system does have significant benefits when it comes to reducing traffic congestion, commuting time and vehicle emissions it would be difficult to completely replace traditional toll collection with it, due to it being a system and program that the drivers themselves must buy into. Regional and State transportation organizations can implement the system into existing road infrastructure, however due to the nature of the road system, drivers must find a reason to take part in the program, either opting to just pay traditionally or to bypass the tolls all together.
- Goal: Increase the efficiency of automobile traffic
- Goal: Decrease average automobile transportation commute times
- Goal: Increase the fuel efficiency of automobile transportation
- Goal: Decrease the rate of environmental damage from automobiles
- Goal: Decrease the incidence of asthma
- Goal: Decrease the incidence of asthma attacks
- Goal: Increase average infant birth weights
Tolls are almost always used to fund construction, operation and repair of road infrastructure in the state or region they are found in, likened to the act of taxation. Thus the operation of toll roads is allowed for government organizations, and in some circumstances, private organizations under agreements with the government. With this framework in place, how the operating organization wants to run its toll collection system is up to internal policy making.
If the organization realizes the inefficiencies in congestion and finance that manual toll collection presents, they may wish to implement a wireless toll collection system. The components needed to provide this system are (1) a road-side sensor unit, which connects to the (2) central control unit containing all of the data on registered vehicles, the (3) on-board unit for registered cars that interacts with the road-side unit and a (4) sensor loop that signifies when the on-board and road-side units should interact with one another. Once these components are installed on the toll road and cars register for the program, they system can become fully operational.
Starting in the early 2000s, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) began to look into wireless toll collection technology as a means of helping manage the growing congestion on the roads in the Washington D.C. area, such as I-495 and I-95. Due to legislation by the State of Virginia (the Public-Private Transportation Act), private organizations could take over the operation of public infrastructure management and construction. Under this pretense, the concept of High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes began to be developed with a partnership between VDOT and the private organization Capital Beltway Express, LLC., with construction starting in 2008 and the new lanes opening for business in 2012.
These toll lanes function much like the existing high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes in that they are separated from the general lanes. Once a car is in the separate lanes, there are strategically placed locations at which the process of wireless toll collection occurs, charging the driver's E-ZPass account whatever the toll may be. Additionally, if vehicles in the lanes have the required number of passengers, usually 3+, they do not have to pay the toll, as they are abiding by the HOV rules as well. However, they must flip a switch on the on-board unit to signify that no toll should be collected.
Tradeoffs of implementing this policy may include:
- Requires users to purchase or rent equipment to become part of the system
- High cost to eliminate traditional toll collection stations, if an entire overhaul is desired
- Possibility of freeriders
- Requirement of users to prepay or maintain a balance
- Higher levels of information system maintenance than for traditional systems
If answered yes, the following questions indicate superior conditions under which the policy is more likely to be appropriate:
- Does the existing road system have the need for a toll system of any sort?
- Does the existing road system and its operating organizations have the infrastructure and capacity to implement a new toll system, or change its old toll system into a wireless collection system?
- Will introducing the more efficient toll systems significantly change the external costs presented by the traffic from traditional toll systems?
- Is there enough demand from the drivers to take part in the program, or will extensive marketing and/or required purchase of on-board units be necessary?
- Will the implementation of the system be worth any political backlash from proposing the system, either by citizens, government agencies or interest groups?
Assuming that a jurisdiction has decided to adopt the policy, the following questions will need to be answered when determining how to implement this policy:
- Who will build/operate the new toll system?
- Can the state transportation agency afford to build the necessary infrastructure to implement the new toll system and do they have the capacity to operate this new infrastructure?
- If not, does state law allow for public-private partnerships when it comes to building and operating public infrastructure?
- If the law does not allow for it, is there a private company that would accept limited time franchise right to build and operate the toll system?
- What type of toll system structure should be used?
- Corridor Tolling: Where the user must pay a toll to use a section of the roadway; used to recoup the construction costs of the infrastructure.
- Cordon Tolling: Where the user must pay a toll to enter a part of the road or city; used to limit the demand for the specified part of the road system.
- Area-Wide Mileage Tolling: Where the users pay based on the vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the tolled area; used to both limit demand and recoup construction costs
- What is the best location to implement the wireless technology (Depends on form of tolling)?
- Entry point for the tolling area
- Exit point for the tolling area; could be used in tandem with (1) to allow for charging by VMT
- Place at strategic points of high use in the tolling area to allow greater traffic flow and to limit the number of free riders
- What will the price of the toll be?
- A flat rate, meant to pay for the construction/operation of the road.
- A variable rate, by traffic congestion and time of day (similar to the concept of congestion pricing).
- A variable rate, by VMT
- A mix of any of the above approaches
- How will the user's program work?
- Will the program be mandatory for all drivers, or be an opt-in program only for those who wish to take part in it?
- Will they have to purchase or rent the on-board unit?
- How will those who don't opt into the system be treated if attempting to use the toll system?
- Unable to use the system at all
- Be mailed a bill
- Mandatory program requires all to use the system
- Will a minimum balance be required in the user's account?
- Will there be any financial benefit for those who opt-in to the program, such as reduced tolls?
- Has adoption of: Common.
- For governance level(s): State or Provincial.
- Notable entities who have implemented or adopted this policy include:
- Government Agencies - Transportation. Assumption: Can create more efficient traffic flows, reduces operating costs for toll plazas.
- Constituent Groups - Commuters. Assumption: Can reduce commute times, may receive toll reductions for participating in the program, requires little change in travel patterns.
- Government Agencies - Highways. Assumption: Can create more efficient traffic flows, reduces operating costs for toll plazas.
- Constituent Groups - Automobile Clubs and Owners. Assumption: Can reduce commute times, may allow for expanded use of highways and automobiles.
- Labor Unions - Toll Workers. Assumption: Will eliminate the need for traditional toll workers.
- Advocates - Mass Transportation. Assumption: Prioritizes automobile use.
- Government Agencies - Transit Authorities. Assumption: May lose revenue to auto users.
- The Research and Development of the Highway’s Electronic Toll Collection System. Xu, Guang-xian, Jian-hui Liu, Zhi-yong Tao, and Xin-chun Li. "Highways Electronic Toll Collection System Project." Academia.edu. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2016. This article looks at the concept and technology behind electronic toll collection systems.
- . Nandhini, S., and P. Premkumar. "Automatic Toll Gate System Using Advanced RFID and GSM Technology." International Journal of Advanced Research in Electrical, Electronics and Instrumentation Engineering 3.11 (2014): 13002-3006. 15 Aug. 2015. Web. This article looks at the advanced techniques that can be used to wirelessly collect tolls.
- . Lin, Chin E., and Ling Yan Bi. "A Mobile Electronic Toll Collection for E-Commerce Applications." Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research 3.2 (2008): 111-28. 09 Aug. 2011. Web. This article looks at the concept of electronic toll collection from the point of view of e-commerce.
- . Mhatre, Adesh, Shilpesh Agre, Anil Avhad, Dhruv Gandhi, and Nilesh Patil. "Electronic Toll Collection ETC System Using WiFi Technology." International Journal on Recent and Innovation Trends in Computing and Communication IJRITCC 3.4 (2015): 2045-050. 23 Apr. 2015. Web. This article looks at the concept of electronic toll collection from the view point of Wi-Fi technology.
- 495/95 Express Lanes Project Background. Gives a background as to how the Northern Virginia Express Lane project came into fruition.
- Electronic Toll Collection Report. Gives an overview of the concept of electronic toll collection.
- Toll Collection Technology and Best Practices. Looks at how toll collection practices and how electronic toll collection changes the practice.
- Toll Road Operator, Union Set New Contract Talks. Talks about the various issues toll road workers and operating companies face with one another.
- GSA Electronic Toll Collection Systems. Gives the GSA's thought on electronic toll collection.
- Virginia DOT. Website for Virginia Department of Transportation and its program for electronic toll collection.
- Florida DOT. Website for Florida Department of Transportation and its program for electronic toll collection.
- Texas DOT. Website for Texas Department of Transportation and its program for electronic toll collection.
- California Bay Area Toll System. Website for California Bay Area Toll System and its program for electronic toll collection.