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Tolling Points

Transportation Corridor Agencies Deliver Better Service at Lower Cost

By: 
Bill Cramer

For any business known to humanity, it’s hard to imagine a better way to surprise and delight customers than by delivering better, more convenient service at lower cost.

But at its best, that’s precisely the expectation that a new generation of tolling technology can fulfill. And it is exactly what customers will soon be experiencing in California, when the state will begin rolling out plans to collect tolls using 6C protocol beginning in January. This new protocol will allow transponders to be in the form of a low-cost sticker and for Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) in Orange County, CA introduction of the sticker will add new benefits for customers with a TCA FasTrak®  account.

Beginning next June, all tolled bridges, lanes, and roads will be able to process tolls using a simple sticker that adheres simply and easily to the inside of the windshield. “The adhesive bandage-size sticker costs significantly less than the battery-operated hard-case transponder currently used to collect tolls electronically in the state,” TCA says in a release. And the agency “will be passing the cost savings to its FasTrak accountholders, by ending the current monthly account maintenance fee.”

By October 2019, “The Toll Roads’ 1.3 million accountholders will be able to use all toll facilities in California,” the agency adds. “The new technology and account updates are specifically designed to simplify payment options and address the common requests heard from customers.”

Removing an Irritant

The change eliminates an irritant that has caused a lot of discussion between the Agencies and their customers over the years.

“The monthly account maintenance fee, originally instituted to help cover the administrative costs associated with maintaining a FasTrak account, is something our customers commonly grumble about and has been a barrier to FasTrak account sign-ups,” said Ed Sachs, Chair of the Foothill/Eastern TCA and Mayor of Mission Viejo. “The new FasTrak sticker transponders will reduce operating and storage costs, and the great news is that we will pass those savings back to our customers.”

And as often happens when a system upgrade transforms an existing process, TCA is taking the opportunity to streamline systems and deliver superior customer service.

“The new technology reduces operating costs and enabled us to review all our programs and make improvements for our customers.” said Fred Minagar, Chair of the San Joaquin Hills TCA and Laguna Niguel Councilmember. “The removal of the monthly maintenance fee, the new earned-discount program and the ability to use all toll facilities in California add benefits and will improve the customer experience.”

Building on a Solid Foundation

This is by no means the first time California tolling agencies have embraced cutting-edge technology to keep faith and build trust and accountability with customers. The state has been a leader in toll interoperability from the moment it introduced electronic toll collection, developing a collegial approach among a dozen or more individual agencies that produced an integrated service, while still allowing each operator to collect tolls in their own way.

The degree of back office coordination that makes all of this possible is largely invisible to customers, except in the way that matters most: It works, efficiently and seamlessly, giving them the convenient mobility they expect on tolled facilities. Along the way, California’s experience has helped guide the development of interoperability practices across the United States.

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