Ruben Q. De La Rosa, P.E.
The use of intelligent transportation systems (ITS) for tolling purposes is aimed to mitigate congestion, decrease wait times at toll plazas, and reduce environmental effects.
But what exactly does that mean to you?
Before (ITS), you normally found out about the traffic jam the moment right before you slam on the brakes. It’s a disastrous feeling, especially when you had everything planned out and you’re pressed for time. Do you remember when main toll plazas only took coins? You’d probably pitch a major fit if the EZ-Pass lanes were out of service and you had to use the cash lanes.
In the past two decades, there have been countless technological advancements that have allowed us to alleviate traffic congestion at tolling areas. Bluetooth, broadband communications, microwave radio, and laser/radar equipment have been used to monitor traffic flows and allow traffic engineers to perform endless amounts to traffic flow studies.
New toll plazas are equipped with (ITS) equipment in the form of electronic toll collection systems. These are able to perform three functions: automatic vehicle identification, automatic vehicle classification, and violation enforcement.
You may not pay any mind to it when you’re travelling at 75 MPH (some of you 85 MPH) down the Westpark Tollway, but the next time you happen to be stuck in a jam, take a quick peek (yes I said only a quick peek, your eyes should really be on the traffic in front of you) at the overhead (ITS) structure. Did you notice that flat panel detector or an antenna like structure hanging from the structure or even a small camera?
That (ITS) equipment is making the manned tollbooth obsolete. That (ITS) equipment is taking vehicle identification data in order to determine how much a vehicle is tolled. Also, this equipment is detecting traffic data, taking video feeds, and sending it back to the traffic management center (i.e. Houston TranStar®, HCTRA, etc.) through miles and miles of fiber optic lines. From this data, the average travel speeds and average travel times between major interchanges are calculated and displayed on their website.
Traffic is inevitable. Traffic is constant. Traffic is here to stay. The larger we grow as a city traffic will continue to get worse (hate to say it). As drivers, we want to find quickest and most efficient route possible to our destination. Unlike 20 years ago, when we had to stop at the tollbooth and throw our fifty cents into the bowl, the (ITS) technology is available to mitigate traffic and eliminate bottle necks at toll plazas.