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Tolling Points

Five Big Takeaways from IBTTA’s 2014 Annual Meeting

By: 
Bill Cramer

Now that nearly 1,000 participants have had a chance to get home and catch their breath after IBTTA’s 82nd Annual Meeting and Exhibition in mid-September, here are some of the biggest takeaways from three intensive days of discussion, listening, learning and networking.

1. A Tolling Renaissance is Around the Corner

Tolling historian and panelist Ed Regan of CDM Smith predicted a 400 to 500% increase in the size of the U.S. tolling industry over the next 15 years, with 30 out of 50 states adding new tolled capacity.

“By 2030, the number of miles of toll roads in one form or another in the United States will increase to 25,000” he said, with 70% of the volume on existing interstate highways. There are no guarantees, but “if I’m even close, the amount of change and growth will be huge, and the opportunities limitless.”

2. State Governments Need Predictability and Flexibility

To build, maintain, and finance their highway systems, states need predictable, multi-year federal funding, and more flexibility to fund transportation as they see fit. Flexibility includes the option of tolling existing interstate highways to pay for their reconstruction.

“If you look at some of the items that were built into MAP-21, and some of the issues we bring to the table through the GROW AMERICA Act, we also bring a little more flexibility into the federal program,” Victor Mendez, Deputy Secretary of the U. S. Department of Transportation told the conference.

“Those of you in the private sector don’t run your businesses two or three months at a time,” he added. “We cannot run a $770 billion per year business two to three months at a time, nine months at a time. So we’re working very hard with the Administration and Congress to come up with a funding solution that will give all of us certainty for the long term.”

3. There’s Always an App for That

Mobile devices are putting more and more choice in customers’ hands, with tolling agencies rolling out hands-free, eyes-free apps that provide real-time information on roadway conditions and congestion, speed limit changes, and a host of other trip details.

But with private sector developers storming the field, it may be sufficient for agencies to find the right partnerships to draw new customers and fill up available capacity.

“If you’re in the public sector, no offence, but stop building apps,” said Joseph Kopser, CEO of RideScout. “If you’re building your own app in-house, the person working on it is about to be snatched up by the private sector and paid 10 times more.”

4. Here Come Connected Vehicles

The U.S. market for connected and autonomous vehicles is right around the corner, with the Department of Transportation set to finalize its rulemaking for the technology in 2016. Passenger safety is by far the biggest motivator.

“They don’t get drunk. They aren’t distracted. They don’t get tired. They don’t text,” a panelist said. “Self-driving vehicles have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives over current technology.”

For tolling agencies, the technologies behind connected vehicles support integrated payment systems, real-time performance feedback, communications between vehicles and infrastructure, and decentralized traffic management. With the ability to operate at higher speeds, with closer headways and narrower lanes, connected vehicles will allow agencies to squeeze more traffic volume and revenue out of existing infrastructure.

5. It All Comes Back to the Customer

Customers and Collaboration is IBTTA’s theme for 2014. Retail and consumer futurist Doug Stephens urged tolling agencies to align with their markets by maximizing their use of mobile platforms, gamifying the tolling experience and customizing and personalizing each user’s experience.

A toll road, bridge, tunnel, or turnpike “is not like a rack of clothing,” he said, “but in a sense, it’s almost trickier than clothing or coffee. It becomes more of a binary decision for the customer. They either use the toll road or they don’t. There’s no gradation. It’s either yes or no.”

What were your biggest takeaways from the Annual Meeting? Be sure to login to share your comment(s).

photo credit: Dougtone via photopin cc

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