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Tolling Points

For Tolling, Giving Back to Communities is All About Connection

By: 
Bill Cramer

Photo credit: Halifax Harbour Bridges


Creating connections that give back to communities has always been at the heart of tolling agencies’ locally driven mandate, resulting in a legacy of caring and giving back that was one of the most inspiring takeaways from IBTTA’s virtual annual meeting and exhibition last fall.

From Europe and North America to Brazil, Mexico, and India, tolling professionals step up every year, making good use of their established networks, technologies, expertise, and business relationships to support strong, vibrant communities. IBTTA’s 2020 Annual Meeting featured a virtual tour of some of those local programs, led by ASFINAG Managing Director René Moser and sponsored by SAP Public Services Inc.

“As road operators representing the International tolling industry, we can give back to our communities, we can find an added value to be given back to our users and customers,” said Emanuela Stocchi, Director of International Affairs at the Associazione Italiana Società Concessionaire Autostrade e Trafori (AISCAT) and Past President of IBTTA.

With communities around the world still in the grip of a crushing global health emergency, she said recovery programs in Europe would enable concessionaires to “help repair the economic and social damage brought by the coronavirus pandemic, kick-start European recovery, protect and create jobs and boost private investments.”

Keeping people connected

A bridge is literally about the physical connection between two or more locations. Steve Snider, General Manager and CEO of Halifax Harbour Bridges in Nova Scotia, Canada, showed how his facilities serve an essential human function by keeping people together. From bicycle lanes on the newly-rebuilt Angus L. MacDonald Bridge, to annual bridge walks and fundraising runs, to fireworks displays for special occasions and signage to thank pandemic responders, Snider painted a portrait of a tolled facility that is utterly embedded with the community it serves.

Ireland’s eFlow, operator of the barrier-free tolling system along Dublin’s M50 motorway, supports local schools to help teach students about transport and mobility, sustainability and climate change. Claire Carbery of Transport Infrastructure Ireland cited eFlow’s sponsorship of the annual Saffron Science School Competition as a great opportunity to promote environmental education, create awareness, boost interest, and broaden knowledge. The company supports the entire program, from initial theming through the final award presentation, and the winning class gets to go on a trip to the Euro Space Center in Belgium.

Bill Halkias, Managing Director and CEO of the Attica Tollway Operations Authority in Greece, said his company routinely observes the principles of sustainability across four pillars: employees, environment, marketplace, and society. “During 2019, 800,000 trees and bushes and 78,000 square metres of lawn were maintained,” he told participants. “2,460 kilograms of plastic, 14,556 kilos of batteries, 1,540 kilos of tires and 26,850 kilos of iron were recycled, while 126 24-hour noise measurements with mobile units were performed, resulting in the installation of 918 metres of sound barriers.” The tollway also cut its fuel consumption 14.6% between 2017 and 2019.

Eduardo Calvo, Communications Director at Madrid-based ROADIS Transportation Holding S.L.U., said the pandemic prompted his company to shift its community relations strategy to maximize the essential supports it could offer in Mexico, Brazil and India—all of them among the countries that were hardest-hit by the coronavirus worldwide. The program delivered practical supports to tens of thousands of people, with particular emphasis on truck drivers who received free COVID-19 testing and flu shots in Brazil, and free medical assistance and truck sanitization in Mexico.

In India, with 100 million internal migrants making their way along the country’s highways on foot, ROADIS supplied snacks and cooked food, routinely sanitized toll booths and vehicles, and added a COVID module to its standard global road safety campaign.

Atlandes CEO Olivier Quoy pointed to the COVID-related services his company offered along the A63, a strategic link in Europe that is heavily travelled by freight carriers and vacationers alike. One highlight was a two-day span in August when Atlandes delivered COVID testing for returning tourists in cooperation with regional health agencies.

Connecting through technology

Tolling agencies’ basic mandate to connect customers and communities through technology also carries a powerful commitment to social good. Jeff Adler, Vice President of ITS and Solution Consulting at Kapsch TrafficCom USA, said his company’s drive to improve mobility by digitally connecting people, vehicles, systems and services is motivated in part by a keen sense of social responsibility. In a presentation that drew out many of the unintended consequences of introducing new technologies, Adler cautioned participants to get the details right and ensure that projects serve the public as they are intended to.

“Too often, companies have introduced promising technologies and taken advantage of the lack of regulations without taking full responsibility for the consequences that burden society,” Adler said. But “the companies that are authentic about it will wind up as the companies that make more money,” he added, citing Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.

In a similar vein, Vincent Brigidi, Executive Vice President, Commercial Services at Mesa, Arizona-based Verra Mobility, talked about the “gains and pains” of integrating tolling with connected communities. While there are obstacles to overcome and set habits to be shifted, he said the ultimate objective is to deliver a better mobility experience for local citizens.

From community events to commercial services, from routine connections to emergency response, IBTTA’s Annual Meeting shone a light on an industry that takes its local relationships seriously and is determined to give back. That background is standing tolling agencies in good stead, as the pandemic experience transforms the way citizens and communities live, work, learn, and play.

Newsletter publish date: 
Tuesday, March 2, 2021 - 01:00

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