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July 31, 2009updated 04 Apr 2017 4:17pm

US takes first steps towards cashless toll roads

The toll road has a traffic flow of some 80,000 vehicles per day, five mainline toll plazas and 16 ramp plazas.All payments on the toll road are now executed by means of the NTTAs TollTag, a radio frequency identification (RFID) device which in 1989 became the US first electronic toll collection system.TollTags, of which about 1 million are in use, are in the form of a sticker and can be used for payment on all Texas toll roads at full highway speeds and at some Dallas parking facilities.Payment of TollTag bills on NTTA toll roads are facilitated by the North Central Texas Council of Government, a local government association, and require users to open an account funded by means of a MasterCard, Visa, or American Express credit card.Hard on the NTTAs decision to go cashless was the E-470 Public Highway Authority (EPHA) in Denver, Colorado which on 4 July ended the use of cash on its 75km E-470 toll road

By EPI editorial

Contactless payments took an important stride in the US on 1 July this year, when for the first time in that country cash became no longer accepted as a means of payment by motorists using a toll road.

Chosen for this move was the President George Bush Turnpike, which runs for 49km (30 mile) through the northern suburbs of Dallas, Texas and is operated by the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA). The toll road has a traffic flow of some 80,000 vehicles per day, five mainline toll plazas and 16 ramp plazas.

All payments on the toll road are now executed by means of the NTTA’s TollTag, a radio frequency identification (RFID) device which in 1989 became the US’ first electronic toll collection system.

TollTags, of which about 1 million are in use, are in the form of a sticker and can be used for payment on all Texas toll roads at full highway speeds and at some Dallas parking facilities.

Payment of TollTag bills on NTTA toll roads are facilitated by the North Central Texas Council of Government, a local government association, and require users to open an account funded by means of a MasterCard, Visa, or American Express credit card.

Hard on the NTTA’s decision to go cashless was the E-470 Public Highway Authority (EPHA) in Denver, Colorado which on 4 July ended the use of cash on its 75km E-470 toll road. The road has a traffic flow of some 160,000 vehicles per day.

Cashless payments were first introduced on the E-470 in 1991 and are facilitated by EXpressToll, a RFID device mounted on the vehicle, and loops embedded in the road to identify the number of axles on the vehicle for toll computation purposes. Hardware and transponder readers are supplied by RFID specialist Sirit.

Payment is facilitated via a prepaid account funded by a current or credit card account with the balance maintained between $10 and $35 by means of direct debit by the EPHA.

In anticipation of the move to full cashless toll payments, in January 2009 the EPHA introduced as an alternative payment method the photographing of vehicle registration plates.

A camera takes pictures of the front and rear license plates. Vehicle ownership information is found through the Department of Motor Vehicles in all 50 states and some areas of Canada and Mexico and bills submitted via mail.

About 73 percent of people taking the E-470 prior to it going totally cashless were using the EXpressToll system, 19 percent paid cash and 8 percent via the billing alternative.

Pioneering totally cashless initiatives by the NTTA and the EPHA are set to be followed by other US toll road operators of which at least one, the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority in Florida (THCEA), is committed to going fully cashless in January 2010.

In line to go cashless is its 24 km Selmon Expressway which carries some 15,000 vehicles per day.

A RFID payment solution is already offered by the THCEA and is in use by 60 percent of motorists using its toll roads.

Among larger potential next-movers is the South Jersey Transportation Authority (SJTA) which has appointed consultants to undertake a feasibility study into going cashless on its 74km Atlantic City Expressway, which carries some 160,000 vehicles per day.

The SJTA already makes use of E-ZPass, a RFID system also in use by 3 million motorists in the New York area for tolls on bridges and tunnels linking New York and New Jersey.

Payment is facilitated by means of a prepaid account funded by direct credit card account debit or customer-initiated cheque or cash payment.

The debut of non-cash toll roads brings the US into line with trends in a number of other countries using RFID solutions with the most significant of these being in Australia, Canada, Chile, Ireland, Israel and Singapore.

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