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Tolling Points

New York’s Open Road Tolling Decision is a Very Big Deal

By: 
Bill Cramer

21 hours per person per year.

That’s what makes New York City’s decision to adopt Open Road Tolling (ORT) for its busy bridge and tunnel crossings a very big deal.

The decision was announced earlier this month, and will take effect in early January. The language behind the decision shows how quickly the power of electronic tolling is becoming a foregone conclusion for elected officials.

“This automatic tolling is going to have an impact on virtually every commuter in a car,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. “It’s smart and it’s going to be a reality.”

Cuomo’s prepared presentation for the announcement, captured in a Newsday video clip, highlighted five benefits the city could expect to see from a series of improvements to the MTA Bridges and Tunnels system: reduced traffic congestion, enhanced security, “hardening and remediation”, conservation, and design and public art. After looking at the successful Tolls by Mail service that has been in place since 2012 on the Henry Hudson Bridge and along the New York Thruway, the state evidently decided to build on the successful experience.

“We want to build on this accomplishment and bring automatic tolling to every MTA crossing,” the Governor said. “No more toll booths. No more crossings.”

That simple, powerful change will save a staggering 6,400 hours per day for the 800,000 customers who use the system each day.

Open Road Tolling Plan Earns AAA Support

The plan will also save a million gallons of fuel per year, Newsday reports, by “effectively eliminat[ing] the massive backups caused by cars crawling up to a lowered toll gate, then waiting to go through.” Because 94% of MTA’s users already have E-ZPass accounts, only a small proportion will rely on licence plate recognition to pay their tolls.

Those details were enough to earn support from the New York chapter of the American Automobile Association (AAA). “The pros outweigh the cons,” said spokesperson Robert Sinclair Jr. “Certainly it helps traffic to keep moving, which cuts pollution by not having cars sitting there in long lines to pay tolls.”

No Wonder Toll Facility Use is Increasing!

The MTA story helps explain why toll road usage has been growing at such a rapid pace. Earlier this year, IBTTA reported that the five billion trips on U.S. toll roads last year represented a 7% increase over 2014, putting the industry on track to double its volume over 10 years.

Ten of the 31 agencies that participated in the survey reported double-digit growth. Four of them—the Tampa-Hillsborough Expressway Authority, the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, and Georgia’s State Road and Tollway Authority—saw volume increases above or just fractionally below 20%.

Learn more by reading IBTTA’s 2015 National Toll Facilities Usage Analysis or IBTTA’s Toll Technology Transforms Mobility for Customers Report.

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