Mobile E-ZPass reader deployed by NYSTA for Fair parking - Rent a Reader opportunity

August 29, 2007

New York State Thruway Authority (NYSTA) is deploying mobile E-ZPass reader units to collect parking fees at the annual State Fair just a couple of miles off the Thruway in Syracuse NY. Three mobile reader units have been in use since the Fair began Aug 23 at two of nine parking lots. They charge motorists' E-ZPass account the same $5/day parking charge that cash customers pay to park.

A fourth unit is on display at the NYSDOT display booth as a demonstration of their sponsorship of new technology.

NYSDOT mechanics put the units together using trailers they had available for temporary variable message signs and lighting. NYSTA bought m-Gate readers and antennas from MarkIV. System development and other equipment such as lane controllers was done by Traffic Technologies Inc of New Windsor NY which was under contract to design the system, supply processing components and write software. TTI has licensed the mobile reader software and system to NYSTA, with a view to using it elsewhere.

The mobile readers are towed to a site by a pickup truck and are completely self-contained. They have a bunch of 12V deep cell lead acid batteries and a photovoltaic solar panel plus a small gasoline generator for power. The unit has a mobile telephone broadband card and uses the internet to make a VPN (virtual private network) connection to the E-ZPass Plus host at Albany Airport. A permanent E-ZPass parking payment system was institute at the parking lots of Albany Airport in Nov 2001 in an earlier TTI installation. E-ZPass Plus is the brand name adopted by the Inter Agency Group for E-ZPass for all non-road toll applications of E-ZPass.

Michael Kolb of TTI declined to tell us what the system is costing except to say it is "relatively inexpensive." He said NYSTA and NYSDOT were keen that the first units be built at minimum cost so they got hold of used trailers, stock batteries and solar panels and other equipment and had staff mechanics mount the units on trailers.

In pictures the grey cabinet contains the Mark IV reader and lane controller, the cellular or mobile telephone broadband card. The yellow cabinet houses the 12V lead acid batteries.

The mast carrying the arms for the m-Gate reader antennas can also mount an antenna for the communications but at the Syracuse location broadband signal strength made it unnecessary.

Kolb says the mobile units are helping to avoid queueing at the gates by speeding drivers into the parking areas. (They pay on entry.) He says the system appears to be working well. As in any transponder installation cross-reads are a potential hazard.

They engineered it to locate transponders by lane. They can track a transponder in a cash lane nearby and distinguish it from a transponder in the E-ZPass lane, to make sure the first is not charged, while the second is.

The mobile system makes sense for someone wanting to try out E-ZPass before committing to a permanent installation, or at places where there are occasional big events and large numbers of vehicles to be handled, then long periods of very low usage.

COMMENT: With all respect to the NYSDOT mechanics and others this jerried up contraption won't win any design awards for elegance of excecution. Maybe TTI can partner with Apple to design the housings of the next batch and do the marketing. We'll have iE-ZPass? Then anyone can set up their own automated parking lot via iPhones and iTunes.

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TOLLROADSnews 2007-08-29

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