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Tolling Points

Cashless Tolling Gains Support from Staten Island Columnist

Bill Cramer

The local online newspaper in Staten Island, New York was out over the summer with some spirited words of welcome for cashless tolling.

As electronic tolling advances as a standard for state-of-the-art tolling operations, IBTTA members know there is still a place for cash collection to meet specific operational needs in some specific situations. But for SI Live transportation reporter Erik Bascome, the “major convenience, minor concerns” of switching over to cashless operations make the effort worthwhile.

“Soon those traffic-slowing toll booths will be a thing of the past, allowing travelers to maintain driving speed while paying their toll,” he writes, with all four of Staten Island’s bridges soon to offer cashless tolling. The Port Authority Board of Commissioners announced a conversion plan for the Goethals Bridge and Outerbridge Crossing in June, with the systems expected to be in place in the second and third quarters of 2019. The Bayonne and Verrazano-Narrows Bridges made the switch last year.

"Today's action will begin to bring our toll facilities up to 21st-century standards, and will reduce congestion, improve safety and reduce vehicle emissions from idling cars at our crossings," said Port Authority Chair Kevin O'Toole.

Faster, Safer, Better

In his post about 10 days later, Bascome doubled down on that assessment.

“Cashless tolling makes driving faster, safer and better for the environment,” he wrote. “With drivers no longer required to drastically slow down to pay their tolls, the Port Authority anticipates that the cashless tolling systems on the Goethals Bridge and Outerbridge Crossing will save travelers about 200,000 hours a year.”

With “less stop-and-go traffic, and [fewer] impatient drivers creeping forward inch by inch, the Port Authority expects a seven to 10 percent reduction in crashes thanks to the cashless system,” he adds. “And the often-overlooked benefit of cashless tolling is how much more eco-friendly it is than a line of toll booths, where a sea of cars idle in unison, releasing tons of pollutants into the atmosphere.”

Bascome says the two new cashless tolling systems are expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 11,500 metric tons a year.

From Content to Context

The post recounts some of the familiar issues local drivers went through as they adjusted to cashless systems on the first two bridges. What’s striking, though, is that the transportation specialist for the local news outlet is siding with efficiency, convenience, and innovation, in spite of the objections that are bound to accumulate while customers are still getting used to a new way of doing things.

We’ve talked before about what it takes to flip a new idea from content to context. The reference point goes back nearly four decades, to a conversation with a highway safety advocate about the process of earning public acceptance and support for any new innovation worth pursuing.

His point was that it’s content if you have to think about it. It’s context if you just take it for granted that the idea is right.

His example was mandatory seat belts, a development that was once considered edgy by many, intrusive by some…until it wasn’t.

His job was to campaign against impaired driving, an issue that was outside the mainstream when he first took it up, but has become second nature for most drivers today.

For Eric Bascome, cashless tolling has become a matter of context—he’s thought it through, and he supports it because it makes sense.

You know you’re winning when more and more opinion leaders start to support your position, not because you asked them to, but because they found their own way to the right answer.

Get answers to your tolling questions! Sign up before it’s too late to attend IBTTA’s 86th Annual Meeting and Exhibition, October 14-18, 2018 in Baltimore.


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