Electronic toll collection systems use scanning devices to deduct tolls from a driver’s account, reducing the need to stop and start. However, some systems still require toll booths and human toll collectors. The convenience of electronic toll collection comes at a cost, which is passed on to both frequent and infrequent travelers. Despite this, the reduced emissions and convenience make it an attractive option.
In the old fairy tale “The Three Angry Goats”, three goats must cross a bridge barred by an exceptionally nasty troll. The ideas reflected in the story can certainly be applied to the concept of the toll road, which is by no means new and has been slowing down the flow of traffic, on foot, by wagon, by car or otherwise, for a long time. As bridges and toll roads are unlikely to go the way of trolls, innovative methods have evolved to speed up these crossings. Electronic toll collection, for example, is a way to collect tolls while people make short stops or don’t even have to stop when entering a toll road.
There are many different examples of electronic toll collection in use today. Typically, they use some sort of scanning device, either handheld or placed near a toll booth, which can read a device or sticker on a car and automatically deduct money from the driver’s registered account. If people use the same toll roads every day, they can use the same device all the time and have access to an online means to add money as needed so they can pay the toll with fewer stops and starts or without even having to slow down.
Being able to speed down a toll road might be the most desirable thing, but it comes with a feature that can be troublesome. When people don’t have the necessary device or sticker in their car, they can sometimes avoid the toll. Some electronic toll collection devices limit this by having people drive through a toll booth that will only work if a person has enough money in their account or if the driver has the necessary equipment in a vehicle to show they have an account. Of course, the downside of using gates is that it slows down traffic, sometimes stops and starts progress.
One thing that can be said about electronic toll collection is that it is extremely varied. Each system may work a little differently and require different equipment, stickers or other things to access faster transit areas. Furthermore, while electronic toll collection may be desired on routes where heavy transport traffic occurs, this does not necessarily preclude the need for human toll collectors. In the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, the Fastrak program can be used on several bridges: a convenience for passengers, but relatively unnecessary for the occasional traveler. Ultimately, the cost of collecting tolls electronically can create a higher toll, which is then awarded to both frequent and infrequent travelers in equal proportions.
Certainly, there are positive things to be said about electronic toll collection. It is generally easy to use, more convenient, and more time is wasted paying the toll. When cars make only brief stops or are able to travel without stopping, lower emissions result. The fact that this form of collection can reduce pollution levels does not go unmentioned, and the attractiveness of collection in this regard alone is a powerful incentive to install collection systems.