Florida Turnpike procuring 3 or 4-way readers for interop with E-ZPass, NC, GA first up
By Peter Samuel
Within a few weeks Florida Turnpike Enterprise will begin procurement of 3- or 4-mode readers to allow them to read E-ZPass transponders. Another contract will be sought for 'toll support services' to install and switch over to the new generation of multimode readers, we were told today by Richard D Nelson, director of operations at Florida's Turnpike Enterprise.
Larger main servers are being acquired with a capacity for 30m accounts rather than the present 15m to allow large populations of E-ZPass accounts to be added to SunPass.
Business rules are pretty much agreed, Nelson told us.
He said cooperation with E-ZPass is excellent and there's a real enthusiasm on both sides to move forward quickly. A draft agreement between the E-ZPass Group and Florida is about 90% complete. He said they don't have a rigid timetable but they may be able to have the major elements of interoperability (IOP) in place by the end of this year.
Simultaneously they're starting on a communications and marketing plan to think through how best to communicate the opportunities of IOP to motorists traveling between the regions.
It is possible he says that they may procure more than one company to do toll services support to get the new readers up more quickly than a single source contract.
He says interoperability will benefit truckers a lot because so many of them travel up and down the east coast, but he expects it to be popular with the car drivers also.
For Florida the timing is perfect he says because their existing dual mode Encompass-6 (E6) readers are at the end of their planned life cycle and need to be replaced. The new readers he says must be at least 3-mode simultaneously and preferably 4-mode.
Three mode would support the SeGo 6B variant sticker tags and the older Allegro protocol tags as well as E-ZPass IAG transponders. But he says ideally they'd read the 6C tags too from Georgia and other places as well as giving Florida itself another option for migrating to a higher performance tag.
Over an approximate three year time span, the operations director says, there are other things that may be done to improve reads of transponders:
- phasing out the remaining older 3.5 million Allegro transponders freeing up one reader channel
- converting their ticket/trip toll system on the central section of the Turnpike to point tolling, reducing data and write-back demands on reader-transponder time
Giving them confidence going forward to interoperability within about a year is the opportunity to make use of the Alliance for Toll Interoperability 'hubs' which are focused on exchange of image-based data (license plate reads.) Florida is a full participant in the pilot hubs. These are going well enough, Nelson said, for them to be sure they can use cameras as a major component of interoperability and won't have to be entirely dependent on the RF transponder reads.
The Hubs and their handling of camera images and look-up seem likely to be more important in E-ZPass country to read Florida and North Carolina license plates because they seem likely to be slower in getting multi-channel readers than Florida.
eZ-Go Anywhere transponders in test
Nelson said the University of South Florida has been asked to begin testing of TransCore's eZ-Go Anywhere dual mode transponder (E-ZPass IAG, 6B) so Florida's Turnpike can consider offering it to Florida customers who travel north. North Carolina is already selling the eZ-Go anywhere.
It is possible Florida could be selling eZ-Go Anywhere transponders for use in the north by June, Nelson said.
Florida's Turnpike has 1,100 toll lanes to requip with the 3 or 4 channel readers. It has over 7 million transponders in use.
Nelson said they're confident there will be three or four proposals for new readers from the major equipment vendors.
The Turnpike seems to be leading the push for interoperability in the state which makes sense because its the largest and it gets by far the most long-distance traffic. Nelson says he thinks the Orlando, Miami and Tampa tollers will also become part of the process also.
"I think everyone is fully committed to making this work. The biggest parts are pretty much in place."
Cost to Florida of interoperability seems likely to be about $15m counting about half for new readers, but there will be savings and improved revenue to offset that.
Invading Texas next
With east coast interoperability in place it will be possible to focus on getting Texas and Oklahoma in, and later the west.
Affiliate status in E-ZPass
PJ Wilkins of the E-ZPass group secretariat told us recently they are moving toward an E-ZPass Group affiliate status designed to support interoperability as well as to be more convenient for smaller tollers. This will avoid the need for everyone working with the E-ZPass Group to pay the full fees and it will reduce the travel and other work involved in full membership.
Wilkins also said the arrangements with Florida and North Carolina are coming together well, and Georgia may also be included with those two in the initial east coast integration.