Penn Pike ops chief says ticket system replacement difficult decision with AET committed

October 4, 2012

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is spending about $8 million to replace its ticket dispensers and readers. 119 entry lanes are getting a new automatic ticket issuing machine (ATIM) cabinet. 148 exit lanes at toll collector booths are getting new ticket readers and receipt printers.

The new equipment will be in use less than five years because the need for tickets will end with the conversion to all electronic tolling scheduled for mid-2017. Craig Shuey, chief operating officer tells us they considered trying to keep the old equipment going, but decided the risks of the old ticket system collapsing before mid-2017 were too great.

The French supplier of the current magstripe ticket dispensers since 1988 told the Commission it couldn't supply spare parts beyond the end of this year. Any replacement parts would have to be custom built locally.

The Turnpike had problems with the ticket dispensers a couple of years ago that disrupted toll collection and caused queueing incidents at a number of toll points.

"With a 54 month timeline for all-electronic tolling we couldn't risk it again," Shuey said.

The new equipment comes from HECON/Hengstler which specializes in thermal printers widely used to print receipts at gasoline pumps, ATM machines and at store checkouts, according to The company has manufactured precision equipment in Aldingen in Swabian south Germany since the 19th century. But since 1995 it has been owned by Danaher Corporation, an American company.

The ticket dispensing cabinets supplied by TransCore use four printers each (model X56) so with 150 spares a total of 626 are being bought. They print from rolls of paper on demand and have a barcode to carry a record of the time and place of issue.

By contrast the old printers dispensed preprinted ticket stock with the magstripe carrying the time and place of of entry for machine reading.

On exit the tickets are handed to the toll collector who has the toll computed by a barcode reader. Similar but single sided Hengstler X56 printers produce a receipt that is handed to the motorist.

Installation of the entry ticket dispensers is due to run for ten weeks from September 26 through December 7. It is starting at the least busy interchanges first in case of problems, with the busiest interchanges getting the new equipment last.

Toll collectors are having to deal with a mix of old magstripe tickets and the new barcode tickets for about the next five months.

The Turnpike says this is the fourth generation of equipment since the first ticket issuing machines in 1940. Tickets are used on most of the 320 mile east-west mainline and on the northeast extension where the toll is computed by trip length.

But there is barrier or point tolling on the several newer north-south tollroads of the 576 mile system.

Conversion to all-electronic tolling is estimated to take four and a half years and cost some $320 million to implement. A project manager is due to be announced shortly.

TOLLROADSnews 2012-10-03

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