Purists might argue that tolling has always been a subset of intelligent transportation systems (ITS). Until recently, most agencies approached the sourcing, operations, and maintenance of these systems separately. Now, the adoption of managed lanes and continued conversions to all electronic tolling have resulted in a convergence of the two disciplines in many areas. This is a win-win for all involved. This convergence yields greater efficiencies in system operations, maintenance, and overall return on investment.

At their core, tolling and ITS solutions typically involve deployment of a private communications network, numerous field devices along a highway, and a central facility that supports operations and maintenance. Further, modern toll collection systems that support variable pricing and other congestion management approaches rely heavily on ITS field devices to operate successfully. Considering all of the commonalities many agencies are adopting a more holistic approach to procuring and operating these similar systems.

So what are the benefits? A few of the common system elements that can be shared include:

  • Communications network infrastructure to include fiber optic networks and switching equipment
  • Field power infrastructure
  • Vehicle detection devices utilized for traffic speed and density monitoring
  • Central management and operations center(s)

From a maintenance and operations perspective, there are numerous opportunities. Staff responsible for tolling system and ITS maintenance share the same skillset and can be used to maintain both systems. This saves costs in staffing, training, maintenance vehicles, and supplies. Convergence of the operations could also result in savings as there are similar activities that can be co-located, creating significant efficiencies related to costly operations and data centers. Additionally, agencies that outsource operations and maintenance of these systems can realize extensive savings by sources services from a single provider.

The convergence of ITS and tolling is gaining momentum and should be considered by agencies and operators seeking to reduce capital and maintenance costs while continuing to provide superior service to the traveling public.

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About the author

Kevin Palmer, PE, PMP
Kevin Palmer, PE, PMP
Kevin serves as RS&H’s Tolls Technology Leader and has a range of progressive experience in program management, consulting, and system planning. RS&H provides specialized solutions for the planning, scheduling, and testing of toll and managed lanes systems.