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Tolling Points

New York State Thruway Authority Statewide All-Electronic Tolling Conversion

By: 
Guest blog: Chris Body, Kapsch TrafficCom

In 2019, New York State prioritized going “cashless” for the New York State Thruway and other major highway systems in the state in an effort to reduce pollution and congestion and mandated that the AET conversion must be done by the end of 2020.

When vehicles no longer slow and stop to pay at a toll plaza, traffic congestion is notably reduced as are emissions from any idling vehicles. Lack of stop-and-go traffic further contributes to fuel optimization and savings, as drivers can instead move through the toll zones at highway speeds.

All-Electronic Tolling also enhances road safety. Toll plazas are sites of considerable traffic incidents when vehicles change lanes in crowded conditions, or accidentally strike plaza infrastructure or personnel. It can be dangerous for toll collectors to work around live traffic. An AET system eliminates these risk factors, and in the years it takes to plan and deploy such a large system, toll collection staff can be retrained or redirected to new opportunities.

In 2019, NYSTA elected to convert the rest of its mainline highway sites along its 570-mile length to a Kapsch single-gantry AET solution that had previously been implemented at eight toll points in 2018. The new scope of work at 24 toll plazas included 44 new gantries and would convert all of the high-volume toll sites along the New York State Thruway to fully electronic toll collection. Kapsch began installation at these 24 sites in March 2020, just as the pandemic hit and completed its work in October 2020.

Today, there are now 51 new single-gantry toll facilities and 148 lanes of toll equipment along the NYSTA highways to facilitate completely cashless toll transactions. Kapsch supplies the high-volume, highway-speed transactions while NYSTA continues to modify the smaller entry and exit points to the Thruway to cashless collection.

The sheer magnitude of devices and resource coordination between NYSTA, Kapsch, and Kapsch subcontractors was staggering. In addition, this feat was accomplished safely and without incident during the period of social distancing due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

System Statistics and Components

  • 148 instrumented lanes and shoulders.
  • 339 Antennas
  • 452 nVDC Sensors/illuminators
  • 1520 VRX cameras/illuminators
  • 186 Laser Scanners
  • 110 DVAS cameras
  • 384 computers
  • 112 miles of cable

The people element – all in 10 months’ time

  • 6 concurrent installation sites and teams across the state
  • 140,000 man hours
  • 84 man years of effort
  • 16 Kapsch Engineers and software developers
  • 24 Electricians
  • 18 MOT Operators

The workhorse of the system is the Kapsch stereoscopic video-based detection and classification system, the nVDC.  When a vehicle passes a toll point, the vehicle class is determined by an algorithm that draws data from multiple sources. Fiber treadles installed in the roadway count vehicle axles while the NVDC sensor, which is mounted above the toll zone on the gantry - provides additional key information such as vehicle length, height, and width; vehicle speed; and vehicle positioning. Laser scanners provide supplemental data to assist in the classification. These sensors are synchronized with the E-ZPass reader.

The position of the E-ZPass vehicle transponders is supplied by the AVI system in order to accurately charge the driver’s E-ZPass account. All information is passed into the APEX zone controller which uses the different collected components to form individual toll transactions. Environmental and traffic conditions are also taken into account to adjust the weighting of inputs from different sensors in order to optimize performance during varying weather and traffic volumes.

The nVDC also triggers the capture of ALPR information as each gantry contains monochrome white-light redundant ALPR cameras for front-and-rear vehicle image capture (two front and two rear per lane). These cameras are in addition to overview cameras that are required to provide an overview image of the vehicle as part of the transaction, as well as the front and rear license plate images. If there is no transponder, the vehicle will be charged the video toll rate determined by the sensor metrics and charged to the vehicle’s registered owner using license plate images.

For verification purposes, a digital video audit system (DVAS) also attaches a snippet of video to each transaction. This allows auditors to assess any vehicle class mismatches or transaction disputes by viewing video footage of a particular vehicle passing through the toll zone and verifying that the system classified and detected it correctly.

Unique Features

Central Host
Kapsch deployed the central host system at the NYSTA headquarters in Albany, New York, as well as a disaster-recovery backup system at remote location. These two systems operate simultaneously for redundancy so if one system fails, the other can continue to maintain Thruway tolling operations. Each toll zone can operate for up to 30 days independently if communications are lost in the event of a power outage or other disruptive event. This setup ultimately provides high system redundancy and reliability.

Walkable Gantries
The system is also designed to be maintained without requiring any lane closures. The gantries are walkable with all equipment mounted on arms that can be rotated into the walkway, and all equipment is mounted with toolless mounting brackets so technicians can remove and replace any items without requiring a separate handheld tool. Therefore, gantry equipment maintenance can be performed with live traffic below. The mounting brackets and equipment arms are also designed such that components can be replaced without having to re-aim or realign any of the system.

Conclusion
With the new AET system in place, drivers can travel seamlessly along Thruway roads without having to ever stop or pay tolls with cash. The improved traffic flow will also reduce congestion and emissions while improving safety at previously manned toll points. Furthermore, NYSTA investment in a system design that can be maintained with little to no traffic disruption will save significant time and funding in the future, while maintaining a smooth driver experience. These benefits will have positive impacts along vital commercial and commuter roads for the state of New York and the Northeast.

Newsletter publish date: 
Tuesday, March 30, 2021 - 09:00

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