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North Carolina Turnpike Authority

Customer Value and Interoperability through Tri-Protocol Reader Technology

North Carolina Turnpike Authority

Award Category: 
President's Award
Award Year: 


In September of 2017, the North Carolina Turnpike Authority (NCTA) became the first agency in the nation to read all three transponder protocols being considered for national interoperability, in a tolling-environment. Specifically, the NCTA successfully replaced the legacy reader technology on 80 lanes of the Triangle Expressway with tri-protocol reader technology. The implementation of new reader equipment was completed under live traffic, without interruption to toll collection activities, and minimizing any impact to NC Quick Pass customers. In addition to directly supporting IBTTA and the Moving Ahead Progress in the 21st Century Act's (P.L. 112-141), (MAP-21) efforts for nationwide interoperability on electronic toll collections programs, the implementation allowed the NCTA to introduce free 6C transponders and reduced cost E-ZPass interoperable transponders to its customers.


With two new toll projects scheduled to open within 18 months, the NCTA began investigating options to reach a new customer base by offering low cost transponder options and avoiding disruption to existing customers by preventing a transponder recall. The NCTA also wanted to prepare for the future of national interoperability by implementing cutting edge technology capable of reading all three candidate protocols, establishing the NCTA's path forward for technology to be utilized on all future toll facilities in North Carolina. In conjunction with the tri-protocol reader technology, the NCTA procured new, low cost 6C transponders that are offered to NC Quick Pass customers for free. The NCTA also procured lower cost TDM transponders, providing for the sale of these transponders at a lower price point. Considering the new transponders and the tri-protocol reader technology, the established objectives were mutually beneficial for the NCTA and its NC Quick Pass customers. The top priority was to offer free/lower cost transponders, which also saves customers 35% off tolls in North Carolina. Other goals included increasing transponder usage on the Triangle Expressway and converting government, fleet and first responder users to transponder accounts (previously registered license plate account customers).


Since go-live in September 2017, the tri-protocol reader implementation and lower cost transponders have positively affected both the NCTA and its NC Quick Pass customers. The decrease in unit pricing for the three current transponder options averaged nearly 70%, and total savings passed along to NC Quick Pass customers have totaled nearly $600,000 over the past eight months. More specifically, the NCTA achieved a primary goal of offering a free transponder to customers. Between January 2012 and August of 2017, the NCTA sold approximately 4,400 NC Quick Pass transponders per month. For the eight months since offering lower cost transponders, the NCTA has sold approximately 8,900 transponders per month, more than doubling the previous average. In addition, the NCTA has verified a notable rise in transponder-based transactions on weekdays before and after the implementation (59% and 63% respectively), thus reducing the costs associated the postpaid (license-plate based) billing program. Further, for the first time in NCTA's history, overall transponder-based transactions exceeded 60% for an entire quarter (January-March 2018).

The NCTA continues to put customers first and worked diligently to utilize state-of-the-art technology in the tolling industry. By procuring new transponder offerings and tri-protocol reader technology, the NCTA was able to immediately pass on the cost savings to its customers and has identified and incorporated operational efficiencies accordingly. In addition, all toll roads in North Carolina will be equipped to read the three transponder protocols being considered for national interoperability. In addition, the NCTA has demonstrated that tri-protocol technology can work in a tolling environment, with accurate transponder reads at high speeds, and without impacting the customer experience, revenue, or interoperable partnerships. By taking the risk of being the first agency to install this technology, the NCTA has helped reduce the risk to fellow agencies considering similar implementations.

The NCTA has been at the leading edge of implementing new toll collection technologies and is the first agency in the United States to read the three transponder protocols in a tolling environment being considered for national interoperability.