Georgia Toll seeking procurement of ISO 18000 6C or 5.9GHz toll systems for I-85 HOT lanes

August 19, 2009

Georgia State Road and Toll Authority (Georgia Toll) have begun procurement of new toll systems to be initially deployed on I-85 toll express lanes northeast of Atlanta but intended to replace those currently used on GA400, and to be a standard for tolling elsewhere in the state. They are specifying an open standard transponder/reader system - either an ISO 18000 6C sticker tag with a hardcased option, or 5.9GHz IEEE 802.11p/IEEE 1609. The hope is to get  an advanced toll system that can be applied elsewhere.

They've tentatively decided to brand their new toll system PeachPass.

The Georgia procurement is modest in scale - 250k transponders and 37 open road toll lane readers and camera systems. It will be interesting to see if major companies can devise financially attractive proposals given the departures from existing industry practice.  

No company presently supplies ISO 18000 6C as both a sticker tag and a hardcased transponder in the US, and while a huge amount of development has been done on 5.9GHz IEEE 802.11p/IEEE 1609, none is yet deployed.

ADDITION/CORRECTION: Sirit tell us they DO offer ISO 18000 6C as a hardcased transponder and that it is deployed in several south American countries. They say the different antenna needed is thoroughly proven and tested and they can readily supply a product to Georgia's specifications. 2009-08-19 11:00

The I-85 HOT Lanes are due to open January 2011 so proposals have to meet challenging deadlines.

TransCore's eGo series tags using a patent-protected variant of the ISO 18000 6B are now in use on GA400, as well as in Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, Washington state and other places. TransCore are quite capable of offering a 6C sticker tag and reader but their policy so far has been to stick with their patent protected variant of 6B which they say is far more thoroughly proven than 6C.

They'd have to set up a separate production line for 6C or buy them from an outside supplier whereas they have their own established 6B-variant production line for eGo and Super EGo in their Albuquerque NM factory. That has a flow of orders from Texas, Florida and other places beside which the Georgia order is minor.

Also TransCore would have to adapt a reader to 6C, which could under cut their sales of eGo readers.

Sirit has 6C tags and readers

Sirit in collaboration with 3M have been offering ISO18000 6C sticker tags and have an open standard policy. So they seem likely to be the prime contender for the Georgia project.

5.9 Gig

Mark IV, Kapsch, Raytheon, TransCore and Sirit are all heavily invested in 5.9GHz technology but it has not been deployed anywhere and the transponder is bound to be a multiple of the cost of sticker tags - $40 to $50 v $5 to $10 apiece.

Most likely any contenders with 3M/Sirit will propose support for sticker tags and a potential 'migration path' to 5.9GHz if this is justified in the future. 6C sticker technology is used outside tolling, so one of the European toll systems groups might come in with the 6C for the first time.

New patented "gantry controlled access"

Another unusual aspect of the Georgia Tolls procurement is its specification of "Gantry Controlled Access (GCA) - Electronic Barrier and Enforcement System and Method, patent pending, US Patent Application #12/170322, for charging tolls and detecting violations."

This cross-buffer violation detection and enforcement system designed by Georgia Tolls staffers and a Georgia Tech profssor is reflected in the dense 37 gantry aspect of the proposal.

Details of the new access control are contained in the Patent and in a TRB paper attached below:

50k/month production required

Bidders for the Georgia RFP must guarantee an ability to produce 50k transponders per month and a million a year, large numbers for one HOT lanes project plus a possible conversion of GA400 where fewer than 200k total transponders are presently in use.


System integrator

There is a separate request for qualifications for a system integrator and back office improvements to cover both I-85HOTL and GA400.

Major constraints or requirements that caught our eye is that the system integrator must have been a prime contractor or subcontractor for at least one open road toll (ORT) installation within the past four years.

The project must offer components to allow integration with the GA400 toll system. It is located not far to the southwest of the I-85 HOT Lanes. The new system must be capable of supporting the present GA400 Cruise Card transponders.

The project

I-85 in the stretch to be converted to HOT is 2x7 lanes including the HOV lane for a short stretch near the I-285 perimeter and 2x6 lanes for most of the rest of the conversion stretch to the GA316 split.

Average daily traffic on much of the corridor is 260k.

Occupant requirement 3 for free rides

They propose HOV3+ (three or more occupants) as the requirement for free rides. All users will have to register and get transponders.

Jan 31 2011 is specified as the opening date.

The project will support a substantial increase in bus transit in the corridor, including 36 new 57-passenger coaches, several new express coach routes, and two new Park-and-Ride lots with 1900 car parking spaces.

Congestion is such that there wqill be substantial advantages in using the HOT Lanes. At present morning peak flows inbound take 80% longer than freeflow traffic, and afternoon peakhour trips typically take twice as long as freeflow trips at other times.

5 toll segments outbound, 4 inbound

An elaborate toll system is proposed. There will be dynamic variable pricing as on I-15 San Diego, and I-394 Minneapolis. There are to be 5 toll segments northbound and 4 southbound, and separately set tolls for each (one less than shown in the map nearby which is old.)

Close control of entries and exits is required with gantry equipment - vehicle detection, readers and cameras - every half mile (800m) - making a total of 37 in all.

Teresa Slack chief operating officer for Georgia Tolls is quoted overall: "The technology we seek to develop will address enforcement, out of state visitors, rental vehicles, accurate accounting and privacy issues among others."

The project is jointly developed by Georgia DOT and GSRTA with GSRTA doing toll systems work.

Tolls will be set to manage free flow but modeling suggests a typical trip of 6 to 7 miles (10 to 12km) will cost between 60c and $6.00 or between 10c and $1.00/mile.

Project cost for the full I-85 HOT Lanes (including much beyond the toll systems) is put at $147m of which the feds will be providing $110m.

COMMENT: The transponder/reader systems are an ambitious procurement in scope and technology and the schedule would be demanding even if it just drew on existing transponder-reader systems.

It remains to be seen if the demand for new technology draws viable bids.

Georgia Tolls contest this statement, a spokesman emailing us: "SRTA takes exception to the premise that this procurement is a major departure from existing industry practice.  SRTA is asking for the next generation of technology, not a sole source.  In addition, SRTA understands that the industry is headed in this direction, and is not the first to do this.  It has been done in other places worldwide (i.e. Mexico, Columbia)."

5/1/1/5 format?

We're skeptical too about the value of single HOT or toll express lanes because of their limited capacity (1800 veh/hr). They can't support overtaking. So it only takes one slow driver to block everyone behind, making a mockery of the "express" part of express lanes, and leaving tollpayers frustrated.

On GA/I-85 they have five general purpose lanes alongside an HOV lane each direction now.

If express lanes are worth doing they should go for 2x2 leaving a generous four untolled general purpose lanes each way.

That 4/2/2/4 format was successfully implemented on the 91 Express Lanes in Los Angeles back in Dec 1995. It is in use in Miami on I-95 and in Houston on I-10, and it's now under construction on the Capital Beltway in Virginia and on I-95 north of Baltimore MD.

Other HOT lanes projects make use of 2-lanes reversible - notably CA/I-15, CO/I-25 and the near downtown segment of MN/I-394. VA/I-95/395 will be 3-lanes reversible and CA/I-15 south of San Diego is going to this too.

All these proven formats allow overtaking.

There are single HOT Lanes - on WA167 in Seattle, on UT/1% in Salt Lake City, and the outer portion of MN/I-394. These are a sad legacy of the HOV or carpool lanes which have attracted such small usage overtaking is rarely an issue and where twin lanes would be embarrassingly empty.

TOLLROADSnews 2009-08-18 NOTE: Revisions were made after some back and forth with Georgia Toll. Editor 2009/08/19 13:15.

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