E-ZPass purple coming to Massachusetts Oct 1 2011 - bank ads coming down

December 6, 2010
By Peter Samuel

Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) will drop the transponder tolling brand FAST LANE and adjacent Citizens Bank signs around October 1st next year when its sponsorship contract with the bank expires. The state is going mainstream and adopting the E-ZPass brand-name. After E-ZPass is officially adopted in Massachusetts 21 of the 24 tollers in the inter-agency group will be using the familiar E-ZPass italic and purple lettering (the three independents will be Illinois Tollway, Indiana Toll Road and Chicago Skyway.)

Adam Hurtubise spokesman for MassDOT told TOLLROADSnews the brand and sign changeover has been planned for some time and was foreseen at the time the Turnpike was transferred to the DOT.

Boston newspapers which ran the story at the weekend called it "unforeseen" and a "snafu."

They focussed on the loss of some $500k a year in annual FAST LANE sponsorship payments by Citizens Bank.

Hurtubise said that state officials have known they needed to remove Citizens Bank sponsorship signs because they conflict with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) prohibition on advertising on traffic signs.

MUTCD manual

Toll lane signs are clearly recognized as traffic signs and indeed a whole chapter of the Manual is devoted to toll signage. E-ZPass purple is specified as the color to denote electronic tolling - not the green and yellow used in the FAST LANE/CITIZENS BANK signs.

The very first standard of the MUTCD page 1 of the 816 page manual prohibits any advertising message on traffic signs:

"Traffic control devices or their supports shall not bear any advertising message or any other message that is not related to traffic control."

The Manual which goes back to the 1930s was adopted by state highway officials and the Feds collaboratively. It is regularly revised, but it has always banned advertising. This ban is intended to avoid driver distraction and to focus drivers' attention on the guidance and warning embodied in on-road signage.

The Manual is intended to apply to all public highways whether tolled or untolled.

Feds looked the other way

However the Feds have generally taken a "hands off" approach to enforcement of the MUTCD on self-financing and autonomous toll authorities, Hurtubise says. So the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority got away with the Citizens Bank sponsorship signs, although they are clearly advertising.

With the transfer of the Turnpike and the Mass Port Authority's Tobin Bridge and the Sumner and Callahan Tunnels to the department the conflict with the MUTCD of Citizens Bank sponsorship signs could not be overlooked.

Federal grants  to MassDOT could be withheld if the bank signs were not removed.

The expiry of the Citizens Bank sponsorship provides a convenient time to do the changeover, the spokesman said.

Adoption of the name E-ZPass will reduce confusion and put the state in line with nearby states and simplify signage. Under all the Mass Pike's FAST LANE signs now is the white on purple background E-ZPass ACCEPTED.

Many members of the E-ZPass group had their own signs to start with: Maine, Maryland (M-TAG) and Virginia (SmartTag) which now have the E-ZPass brand and signage. They established their own separate state brands when they had their own in-state electronic tolling.

Each subsequently made the switch to the purple - around the time their back office systems allowed them to handle one another's transponders under E-ZPass group arrangements.

Like Massachusetts, Indiana Toll Road  and Illinois Tollway still have their own brand names while being part of the E-ZPass interoperability arrangements: iZoom and I-PASS.

Citizens bank ad contract expiring

Hurtubise says the FAST LANES signs are several years over the ten years age, at which such sgns are normally  replaced.

275 signs are involved - at toll plazas and on approaches.

The DOT's highway division will attempt to use in-house staff as much as possible, the spokesman says.

DETAIL: The very first section of the manual reads:

"Section 1A.01 Purpose of Traffic Control Devices

"01    The purpose of traffic control devices, as well as the principles for their use, is to promote highway safety and efficiency by providing for the orderly movement of all road users on streets, highways, bikeways, and private roads open to public travel throughout the Nation.

"02    Traffic control devices notify road users of regulations and provide warning and guidance needed for the uniform and efficient operation of all elements of the traffic stream in a manner intended to minimize the occurrences of crashes.


"03    Traffic control devices or their supports shall not bear any advertising message or any other message that is not related to traffic control." end quote

Also in the 2009 Manual Sect 2D.50 p178:

"Business logos, commercial graphics, or other forms of advertising (see Section 1A.01) shall not be used on community wayfinding guide signs or sign assemblies."


chapter on toll signage


map showing 24 E-ZPass group tollers:


As of end May 2010 the group says there are:

- over 20 million tags in circulation

- over 12 million accounts

- represent 80% of electronic toll collection in US by revenue, about 70% by number of transactions

- penetration is 67% versus cash and license plate tolling 33%

- over 120,000 transponders are issued per month

- over 64,000 accounts opened per month

- accepted in 14 States at 24 member facilities

- transponders and readers manufactured by Kapsch's Mark IV IVHS division out of Mississauga Ontario in the western suburbs of Toronto

on Virginia's change from SmartTag to E-ZPass in August 2003:


on Maine Turnpike's change from Transpass to E-ZPass in February 2005:


FOLLOWUP: Local news reports have this as a case of Mass Pike "losing" a half a million dollars sponsorship. That's wrong, as we hear the story. MassDOT says they decided to drop the sponsorship, and to do that along with transitioning to the standard brandname E-ZPass.

COMMENT: Steve Poftak of the Boston free market thinktank Pioneer Institute is quoted as calling the name change "goofy" and a "triumph of bureaucracy over commonsense."

We disagree.

Goofy is the word we'd apply to the present sign setup of FAST LANE on yellow with Citizens Bank atop it in green and small E-ZPass ACCEPTED in purple below.

Not just goofy but misleading.

Citizens Bank has no more to do with FAST LANE or electronic tolling than Bank of America, Citibank, First Southwest or any other bank.

They just paid the Turnpike to gain some of the kudos of being associated with a quicker trip through the toll plaza, and because it was an opportunity to get name recognition.

We think the ban on advertising in the roadway makes sense. Toll plazas are not an appropriate place for advertising. They are confusing enough for motorists to navigate without having advertising as an additional distraction.

Massachusetts is a small state surrounded by states which call the system E-ZPass - New York, New Hampshire, Maine. The Massachusetts Turnpike carries considerable numbers of motorists from out of state, most of whom have E-ZPass transponders.

Everyone knows the E-ZPass brand. Few from out of state would know what a FAST LANE is, if it weren't for the 'E-ZPass ACCEPTED' signs underneath. The Massachusetts system is E-ZPass, and always has been.

The switch to the brand-name that is standard in northeast makes good sense. As for advertising at the toll plazas we say: good riddance. It's not a place for ads.

TOLLROADSnews 2010-12-06

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