12th International HOV Systems Conference: Improving Mobility and Accessibility with Managed Lanes, Pricing, and BRT
BREAKOUT SESSION — TOLL TECHNOLOGY — WHAT'S AVAILABLE, WHAT'S COMING
Mark Muriello, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Presiding
Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority Transition to eGO
Erik Steavens, State Road and Tollway Authority
Erik Steavens discussed the Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA). He described the roles and responsibilities of SRTA, the Georgia 400 Toll Road, and the eGO electronic toll collection (ETC) cards.
- SRTA is governed by a five-member board of directors. The Governor serves as the chairman. Two members are appointed by Speaker of the House and two by the Lieutenant Governor. SRTA is responsible for operating tollways in the state. Currently, SRTA operates the state's only toll facility, the GA 400. SRTA also provides debt financing for transportation projects, completes toll revenue studies, and maintains a transportation revenue forecast.
- The GA 400 is a 6.2 mile toll facility located in Atlanta. The GA 400 carries approximately 120,000 vehicles per day. The toll is $0.50. The GA 400 includes cruise lanes with ETC. The two ETC lanes in each direction allow users to travel at regular, driving speed. Approximately 35 percent of all traffic on the GA 400 uses the cruise lanes.
- The ETC system has evolved since 1993 with the deployment of a read-only, single protocol system. In 1996, a read-write, in-vehicle feedback single protocol system was implemented. The system was further enhanced in 1998.
- The transition to eGO began with discussions with TransCore in 2004. Other options, including doing nothing and changing to new technology, were considered. After a site visit to the manufacturing and test facility in July 2004, the decision was made to upgrade to eGO and a contract was signed with TransCore in October 2004. The first eGO Cards were delivered in February 2005. Installation and testing of the first lane conversion began in March 2005. Implementation of the eGO system will begin in late June or early July.
- The eGO cards operate in the 902-928 MHz radio frequency. They are flexible stickers and are battery-less. The eGO readers are a multi-protocol 915 MHz RFID reader system. A phasing-in of the new toll cards is being used.
- There were numerous benefits to SRTA from the change to the eGO system. First, operating costs are reduced. Fewer toll card recalls due to battery problems are anticipated and the cost of an eGO card is lower than the current product. The eGO system also provides opportunities for growth in attracting new users to the toll system. Market research has shown a preference for tags. There are also new markets, such as parking, for eGO to use. A retail tag program is also possible.
Forecasting and Policy Dimensions of ETC Systems Adoption
C. M. Brown and P. J. Pezzotta, Wilbur Smith Associates
Paul Pezzotta and Colby Brown discussed forecasting and policy dimensions of ETC adoption. They summarized the role of ETC systems, ETC system characteristics, and operational issues. They described forecasting ETC adoption dimensions and models.
- ETC facilitates transactions in conventional toll road systems and on HOT and managed lanes. Configuration options include transponder-based systems and video tolling. Examples of transponder-based systems include EZ-Tag and E-Z Pass. Video tolling is used in Toronto, Canada and Melbourne, Australia.
- A number of factors should be considered in forecasting ETC participation. First, all existing ETC programs are voluntary. Second, there are two distinct, through related decisions for system users — transponder acquisition and toll facility use. Program participation determines user eligibility. In differential pricing contexts, participation also affects revenues.
- ETC program participation is affected by basic system characteristics and by policy decisions. The extent of service, including lane-miles and coverage, and the quality of service in terms of lane configuration, will influence participation. The pricing structure, including the use of differential, variable, and dynamic pricing will also influence participation. Other factors that will influence participation include transponder availability, marketing, and account and payment options.
- There are a number of potential sources of expansion for ETC participation. First, interoperability effectively expands coverage. The E-Z Pass consortium provides one example of interoperability. Second, new systems and standards, such as the state distribution concepts in Texas and the emerging national standards, will influence participation. Finally, future system expansions may increase participation rates.
- Operations issues that may need to be considered in forecasting ETC participation include toll collection and enforcement. Elements to consider in toll collection include the need for registration and account set-up, which will affect access and fees. Enforcement elements include verification of occupancy levels, video enforcement, coordination with local law enforcement agencies, and coordination with DMV databases. With increasing adoption of ETC, enforcement issues will become collection issues.
- The HCTRA system uses a mix of cash and ETC payment options. Currently, ETC payments account for approximately 65 percent of HCTRA toll transactions. The Westpark Tollway, opened in 2004, is operated by HCTRA. It represents Houston's first all-electronic toll road. No discounts for HOVs are provided. The I-10 West managed lanes will be operated by HCTRA. Buses and 3+ carpools will travel at no charge. Variable pricing will be made possible by electronic tolling.
- Forecasting dimensions for ETC include considering the heterogeneity in the AVI market nationwide. Possible factors to consider include urban versus rural markets and mature versus new markets. Houston, with a well developed toll system, provides an example of a more mature market, while Minneapolis provides an example of a new toll market. Extensive outreach is needed in new markets. Different traffic cohorts will also need to be considered. Examples of different traffic cohorts include two-person carpools, 3+ carpools, and commercial traffic.
- Forecasting dimensions will also need to be considered. Examples of potential dimensions include the diffusion of innovations, the importance of time savings, and household characteristics. Other elements include fixed and monthly costs, toll system proximity, economic conditions, system characteristics, and spatial factors.
- Examining the use of Houston EZ-Tag provides an example of the transition from cash to ETC that can be used to enhance forecast models. The Houston toll system is dynamic and incremental, spatially disaggregate, sensitive to expansion policies, and provides input to travel demand models. The use of EZ-Tags has increased over time. Using GIS, home locations of EZ-Tag participants can be compared to the proximity to tollway lane miles and household income.
- The ETC forecast model includes three key characteristics. First, use can be estimated based on historical zone-specific data on ETC participation, proximity, and income. Second, increases in either relative income or proximity to tollway lane miles produce an increased saturation of ETC participation rate. Third, growth in ETC participation in any given year is forecast based upon the prior year's participation level and current saturation rate.
- There are a number of items that need further study. These items include multi-modal issues and potential effects and commercial and freight ETC participation. Sensitivity to pricing and time savings also needs further study. Economic trends and non-stationarities may influence ETC participation. Regional and national systems expansion must also be considered. The development of forecasting models must be pursued in relationship to evolution of policy options. The robustness of the model is a key.