08 crossroads tall

august 2012

How will moving toward AETs affect your business? We hear from Alan Allegretto, Boyd Walden and James J. Eden.

 

 

Xerox Helps Tolling Industry Evolve

Xerox is perfectly positioned to help drivers and transportation agencies make the move to All Electronic Tolls (AET). We’ve already helped the Maryland Transportation Authority implement its first AET road, the Intercounty Connector/MD 200, and we did the same for the North Carolina Turnpike Authority’s Phase I of the Triangle Expressway. We are working with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to convert portions of I-10 and I-110 from High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) to High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes using AET. These “Express Lanes” will use dynamic pricing that allows toll rates to change in real-time based on traffic levels to help reduce highway congestion and maintain pre-determined minimum speeds.

Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) has become a technically feasible and financially attractive alternative to financing and maintaining highway construction projects. More states are enacting Public-Private Partnership (PPP) legislation that uses toll financing as the revenue source to build critical infrastructure projects that cannot be financed through traditional sources. Xerox is working closely with the developers that design, build, finance and operate PPP projects with the latest AET technology.

Xerox has helped the tolling industry evolve with our transportation innovations, as we designed, built and integrated some of the first electronic toll systems. We have implemented innovative E-ZPass® ETC operations starting with projects in New York, New Jersey, Georgia and California. Today, Xerox provides solutions that address our customers’ mobility problems with an installed base of over 1,800 tolling lanes; we also host some of the largest ETC Back Office Systems/Customer Service Centers in the world. Xerox represents over 116.7 million ETC lane transactions and processes over $2.3 billion in ETC transactions per year on average—over 50 percent of all ETC transactions in the United States.

Redesigning Plates in Florida

In Florida, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) registers motor vehicles, issues license plates through its county tax collectors and dealers, and maintains the state database with registration information. Toll operations are overseen by the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT), which currently uses data from the DHSMV to access registration data for toll operations. The two agencies are working closely together as portions of Florida have begun all electronic tolling utilizing license plate numbers.

The DOT and local toll authorities expressed concerns with the legibility of the regular Florida license plate, which is currently metal with embossed characters. The orange blossom design between the characters and current fonts, however, often makes it difficult to read the plate numbers when using camera technology. Initially, toll authorities were relying on cameras to issue toll violations, but due to the large number of errors, they’ve resorted to using employees to interpret the photographs and enter data. Recent estimates indicate that Florida is losing approximately $9 million annually due to the illegibility of state license plates.

The DHSMV has created a license plate review committee that includes representatives from the DOT, the local toll authorities and law enforcement. The objective is to redesign the regular series license plate—there are nearly 15 million registrants with the regular series license plate in Florida—with a design and font that will improve readability. A redesign with newer technologies in the plate itself, in addition to a more simplistic graphic and improved fonts, is expected to assist the various Florida toll authorities in collecting tolls. The DHSMV is working to ensure that both a new license plate design and the appropriate processes exist to allow for further modifications to assist electronic toll operations, as well as other electronic license plate reader technology.

AET Requires Collaboration

It sounds overblown to say that AET is the biggest game-changer our industry has ever seen—but it is! When I began in tolls several decades ago, toll agencies did not manage toll accounts—except for Yellow Freight and UPS—and my job revolved around ensuring mechanical systems were functioning. We had to maintain dozens of buildings with mechanical systems, not including the toll equipment. Traffic and highway engineering revolved around our need to get all traffic to stop at a toll plaza, to protect our employees in the booths and to get water, electricity and waste water service to every remote location

Patrons were anonymous drivers we never met, taking a joy ride to one of our service plaza restaurants. They used cash for their tolls, food and gas.

We didn’t need to work with the DMVs. We didn’t care who the driver was, as long as he paid cash before he left the toll booth—and if he didn’t, the police took care of “driver identification.”

AET turns that all upside down. Every “customer” is an accountholder, whether he or she knows it or not. With AET, we don’t need mechanical systems, toll plazas or provisions for handling cash anymore. But we do need to know who every driver is—or at least how to get them to pay on their account—and we often work with AAMVA member agencies to identify users without a pre-existing account. Working with motor vehicle administrators is as central to the toll industry today as toll plaza cash bags were 30 years ago. Electronic tolling provided toll authorities the momentum to tackle interoperability between toll agencies; with AET, the same momentum is moving towards interoperability between toll agencies and motor vehicle offices. We need to make the connections work for all of us as well as possible.