Massachusetts E-ZPass signs go up starting next week, FAST LANE signs replaced

May 3, 2012

2012-05-03: Massachusetts Turnpike, the Airport tunnels and Tobin Bridge yellow-on-black FAST LANE signs are being replaced by white-on-purple E-ZPass starting next week. And the white-on-green Citizens Bank advertisements atop the electronic toll lane signs will disappear too.

The intention to abandon the Masssachusetts-only FAST LANE brandname was announced December 2010, and they said then that it would occur around October 2011 when the Citizens Bank advertising rights expired.

Eight months late it's happening! The work is being done by Massachusetts DOT (MassDOT) Turnpike maintenance crews and is expected to be completed around the end of August.

Since lanes have to be closed sign swaps will be done mostly at night.

Over 250 signs will be changed over at a cost of somewhat over $1 million.

Confusion for out-of-state drivers

Massachusetts officials say they have a lot of drivers on the state Turnpike from New York, New Hampshire, Maine, New Jersey and other E-ZPass states. Some of these drivers are initially confused by the signs saying FAST LANE and wonder if their E-ZPass will work in the Massachusetts electronic toll lanes.  

That confusion got the addition of 'E-ZPass ACCEPTED' signage added in smaller lettering under the FAST LANE signage - clarifying perhaps but adding to the complexity of the signage.

With simplicity and minimal words the rule of good signage it seems to make sense for Massachusetts to adopt the simple and standard E-ZPass sign.

State secretary of transportation Richard A Davey says in a  statement today that "hesitation and confusion" by out-of-state drivers caused by the FAST LANE signs make Massachusetts toll plazas more dangerous than they need to be.

That's the main argument for the changeover.

Another consideration: the FAST LANE signs instituted with the beginning of electronic tolling in Massachusetts 1998 contravene the rules of nationwide standards set down in the current Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) in two respects:

- in not using the purple color set for toll signs

- in carrying the advertisement for Citizens Bank in a signage environment that bans advertisements as a distraction

Except for the branding on the case FAST LANE transponders are identical to E-ZPass transponders. New purchases of transponders by MassDOT will carry the E-ZPass brand but there are no plans for a transponder recall on account of the official name change.

There are about 1.7 million FAST LANE branded transponders on issue so given a battery life of 7 to 8 years the FAST LANE logo on car windshields could be around until 2020.

HISTORY: Early on in the era of electronic tolling the brand E-ZPass was confined to the original Inter Agency Group (IAG) states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Virginia initially had a SmartTag, and Maine a Transpass.

Virginia initially was sold on a European higher frequency 1.8GHz system. But before many transponders were issued they switched to the 915MHz IAG standard. Maine like Illinois initially had a different active system from AT/Comm like Illinois that was a lower frequency.

Maine's AT/Comm system of 1997 was discontinued when they abandoned a ticket, trip-based toll format for the simpler point tolling in a full changeover early 2005 - a difficult change well-managed by then CEO Paul Violette.

Illinois had gotten an AT/Comm system in 1996 but abandoned it for IAG transponders and readers in 1998.

Maryland initially had a M-TAG brand although the transponder was always built to IAG specs and technically interoperable from the start.

Continuing E-ZPass-IAG dissidents in branding are Illinois with their blue I-PASS and Indiana a very late adopter with a brown and black i-Zoom logo.

E-ZPass IAG transponders and readers are manufactured by the North American branch (formerly Mark IV) of Vienna-based Kapsch in a factory in Mississauga Ontario under a longterm contract with the IAG.

They are mandatory for all full members of IAG which includes toll agencies in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.

By August this year North Carolina as an Affiliate member of the E-ZPass Group will read E-ZPass transponders in its toll lanes and will issue a dual mode hard case transponder from TransCore that will allow its account holders to pay tolls throughout E-ZPass country.

Interoperability with Florida and Georgia is likely to follow, probably next year (2013) and possibly with Texas and Oklahoma in 2014.

see Dec 2010 "E-ZPass purple coming to Massachusetts Oct 1 2011 - bank ads coming down"

on Maine:

TOLLROADSnews 2012-05-03

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