Daimler's big toll lie: the slander of DSRC

August 31, 2003
By Peter Samuel

In its promotion of satellite based GPS/GSM style electronic tolling DaimlerChrysler has spread some serious misinformation about the limitations of short-range electronic tolling (DSRC). This misinformation has twisted the public debate and poisoned decisionmaking in Europe.

In its 12-page "Toll Systems: Intelligent solutions for a mobile world" Daimler writes of DSRC systems: "Automatic toll collection systems operating on the basis of short-range communication (DSRC) calculate tolls without the vehicles stopping, and yet with most of these systems, the driver is forced to slow down or remain in a specific lane." (p4) The weasel word there is "most." The false implication is that DSRC doesn't work well at full highway speed. Or in the multi-lane open road environment. It works fine.

The reason "most" DSRC applications are single lane and force traffic to stop or slow is that they have been applied as compromise solutions to many existing mixed mode toll plazas, the familiar bellied-out area into which, say three lanes of traffic slow and form themselves into about nine toll lanes (each direction) with choices indicated on signs over the canopy between paying a toll collector, throwing coins in a basket, or nowadays rolling through with a DSRC transponder.

    Two factors call for slow movement by transponder-equipped vehicles:

• safety: traditional toll plazas are unsafe if they mix traffic traveling at fullspeed with stopping traffic and if staff have to cross lanes at grade

• law: in some places, most places in Europe, Asia, and South America the law doesn't allow time-stamped camera images to convict violators so it's the law that keeps traffic stopping gates in place for a system that works fine at 100mph.

Slow DSRC operations are therefore a safety byproduct of retrofitting a new technology to toll plazas not designed for open road speeds, not a limitation of the technology. Or they result from shortcomings in the laws on charging violators. Almost all tollroads in America and some in Canada and Australia designed since DSRC tolling have been designed to allow the very multi-lane full highway speed tolling which Daimler suggests is very exceptional. It is not the least exceptional.

With legal backing to use camera evidence against violators - necessary for any mode of open road tolling, shortrange or long, satellite included - and with facilities for collection facilities for cash set off to the side so stopping and non-stop traffic can safely diverge and merge again - full highway speed DSRC tolling is well proven. Such open road tolling (ORT) has been in daily use on most new tollroads and in many rebuilt toll plazas in North America since 1989.

    Open road tolling using DSRC is in operation on the following new tollroads:

    • E-470 Denver CO at four mainline toll plazas

    • several Oklahoma turnpikes

    • GA-400 in Atlanta

    • San Joaquin Hills Tollroad CA

    • 91 Express Lanes CA

    • Foothill & Eastern Tollroad CA

    • DE-1

    • Pocahontas Parkway VA

    • Melbourne City Link Australia

    • 407-ETR Toronto Canada

    • Western Expressway Orlando FL

    • Trans Israel Highway, Israel

    • President George Bush Turnpike Dallas TX

There are also plenty of examples of well-established multi-lane highway speed DSRC on existing tollroads retrofitted by removing five or so central toll lanes, grade separating staff movement under or over, and providing safe diverge/merge conditions for traffic including jersey barrier at:

• Dallas North Tollroad TX

• Sam Houston Tollway TX

• at several Plazas on the Illinois Tollways in Chicago

• Orlando FL

Extensive plans for open road tolling exist at the Garden State Parkway NJ, the New York State Thruway, Port Authority NYNJ Hudson River crossings, the Illinois Tollways, major new tollroads in Santiago Chile, and elsewhere.

COMMENT: Daimler is making a major contribution to the options available in tolling by pioneering satellite based electronic tolling. Everyone owes gratitude to it for its splendid work harnessing GPS to electronic tolling. But it should cease and desist from propagating a big lie about shortcomings of rival shortrange electronic toll technology. TRnews 2003-08-28


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