Electronic tolling up throughout Indiana Toll Road

April 3, 2008
By Peter Samuel

Electronic tolling went operational throughout the Indiana Toll Road around 3am Tuesday April 1. The fire-up of electronic tolling on the trip-toll or 'ticket system' between milepost 23 in Portage and the Eastpoint plaza at milepost 153 near the Ohio border occurred in the early hours of the morning along with a major cash toll increase. All 22 toll points along the 253km (157 mile) road now have electronic tolling. Nine toll points in the barrier system - the western commuter end - of the tollroad went electronic June 25, 2007.

The start-up this week got "Rocky debut" headlines in local newspapers based on delays of three hours - midnight to 3am - in getting software loaded to two plaza servers and read problems in about a tenth of the 90 toll lanes in the ticket system on the first day.

There was unusual queuing in some lanes.

A tollroad official tells us most of the delays were the result of the cash toll increase.

Under the terms of the concession the Indiana Toll Road Concession Company (ITRCC) was allowed to raise cash tolls for cars as soon as electronic tolling was operational at all plazas. Cars going the whole length of the tollroad now pay $8.00 cash versus the old rate of $4.65 which is still available with an E-ZPass system transponder which includes the Illinois I-PASS and the Indiana I-Zoom brands. The $4.65 toll rate for car users of transponders will continue to 2016 - one of the world's lowest toll rates at 3c/mile (1.8c/km) already.

Trucks however get no break for transponder use.

Cash and transponder tolls went up April 1 by 21% from $19 to $23 for a 5-axle tractor trailer on the 215km (134 mile) ticket system. That's now 10.7c/km (17.2c/mile). The 18-wheelers going to or from the Chicago Skyway pay another $4.25 at the Westpoint barrier plaza making their toll bill $27.25 for the 253km (157 miles) or 10.8c/km (17.4c/mile).

Cash toll increase slowed throughput

What was normally a cash toll transaction of about 10 seconds duration became frequently a one minute marketing spiel for transponder accounts April 1 as toll collectors handed flyers for I-Zoom electronic toll accounts to car driving customers and explained how they could avoid the toll increase by signing up for an I-Zoom transponder.


4k transponders in past two weeks

In the past two weeks ITRCC has sold 4,000 I-Zooms bringing the number issued to 13k since the program started last spring. The majority of transponders by far on the Indiana Toll Road (ITR) are still E-ZPass and I-PASS brands from east and west.

The barrier system is now running at close to 50% electronic toll overall and 60% in peakhours.

ITRCC say they are very happy with their toll system supplier Indra which, they say, has had to simultaneously bring online new toll collector terminals, new ticket issuing machines, new lane equipment, new plaza and system software, new vehicle classification equipment as well as the electronic tolling.

For now they have toll collectors in all lanes including dedicated electronic toll lanes. This is so any non-reads of transponders can be deal with immediately.

On the first day 10% of transponder passes didn't read and they anticipate it will take two or three weeks to retune antennas and tweak the system to get the possible 99.95% level of reading good tags. Write-back of entry data appeared to be good.

Meanwhile the toll collectors have handheld readers to read entry data on transponders where the overhead reader is malfunctioning on exit.

Trucker group supports the deal

AP quotes the president of the Indiana Motor Truck Association Kenneth Cragen as saying his organization supports the ITR toll concession because it is bringing improvements to the tollroad. The savings in time and fuel makes the higher toll rates worthwhile.

The ITRCC is also completing the third laning of the busier western barrier segment.

Bills taken, change given by new machines


ITRCC is introducing multi-payment mode automatic toll payment machines in 24 toll lanes of the 42 in the western barrier segment. 18 are already installed. These machines allow motorists to pay by credit car or with bills and get change. Similar machines are in use on the Ohio Turnpike and the Orange County Toll Roads.

Trip based systems

Ticket systems which toll by trip are inherently more complex than barrier or point tolls to operate with transponders because there has to be both entry and exit data to calculate a due toll.

Other US tollroads with trip-based electronic tolling include New York State Thruway, New Jersey Turnpike, Massachusetts Turnpike, Pennsylvania Turnpike, Kansas Turnpike, and Florida's Turnpike. In Canada 407ETR does trip tolling also.

Total cost of the toll sytem upgrade is around $40m.

With the completion of electronic tolling on the Indiana Toll Road all major tollroads in the US have electronic tolling except the Ohio Turnpike, which has a procurement under way.

They broke the Ascher Commandment

Michael Ascher CEO of the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA) 1990 to 2005 said in 1999 that the worst mistake he made in introducing E-ZPass in New York City was to agree to a toll increase in the middle of firing up an electronic toll system. In 1996 with E-ZPass being introduced progressively across their nine busy plazas they increased their major crossings cash toll rate from $3.00 to $3.50.

Suddenly their toll collectors had to handle quarters as well as bills. Having to collect 50c from motorists handing over the normal three bills plus the extra time to give a pair of quarters in change, as opposed to the bills-only toll collection, dropped throughput in the cash lanes. Backups on the Triborough, Throgs Neck and Whitestone bridges from the cash lanes clogged all the approach lanes and prevented transponder-equipped vehicles getting to the belly-outs of the toll plaza. Many dedicated E-ZPass lanes went unused.

It was a mess caused by the toll increase and the inability of cash collectors to maintain their normal throughput.

But the New York press wrote it up as an E-ZPass Screw-up - a failed electronic toll system.

Henceforth the Ascher Commandment for E-ZPass was approximately: "Thou shalt not raise thy toll while thou does gizmos. Or thou shall suffer crucifixion at the hands of the scribes."

ITRCC just broke the Ascher Commandment, and suffereth accordingly.

TOLLROADSnews 2008-04-02





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