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E‑ZPass is an electronic toll-collection system used on most tolled roads, bridges, and tunnels in the northeastern United States, south to North Carolina, and west to Illinois. Currently, there are 25 agencies spread across 14 states that make up the E‑ZPass Interagency Group (IAG). All member agencies use the same technology, allowing travelers to use the same E‑ZPass transponder throughout the IAG network. Various independent systems that use the same technology have been integrated into the E‑ZPass system. These include I‑Pass in Illinois, NC Quick Pass in North Carolina, and the defunct M‑Tag in Maryland, Smart Tag in Virginia, and Fast Lane in Massachusetts.
E‑ZPass tags are battery powered RFID transponders, made exclusively by Kapsch TrafficCom (formerly Mark IV Industries Corp—IVHS Division). They communicate with reader equipment built into lane-based or open-road toll collection lanes. The most common type of tag can be mounted on the inside of the vehicle's windshield behind the rear-view mirror, though some vehicles have windshields that block RFID signals. For those vehicles, historical vehicles, and customers who have aesthetic concerns, an externally mountable tag is offered, typically designed to attach to the vehicle's front or rear license plate mounting points.
Although a tag can be used with a motorcycle, there are usually no official instructions given for mounting due to the numerous variations between bike designs and the small area of a motorcycle windshield which could prove a hindrance if the transponder is attached following automobile instructions. Transponders may be held in the hand, if necessary.
Most E‑ZPass lanes are converted manual toll lanes and must have fairly low speed limits for safety reasons (between 5 and 15 mph is typical), so that E‑ZPass vehicles can merge safely with vehicles that stopped to pay a cash toll and, in some cases, to allow toll workers to safely cross the E‑ZPass lanes to reach booths accepting cash payments. In some areas, however (typically recently built or retrofitted facilities), there is no need to slow down, because E‑ZPass users can utilize dedicated traffic lanes ("Express E‑ZPass") that are physically separate from the toll-booth lanes. Examples include Delaware Route 1, Virginia's Pocahontas Parkway, the Hampton toll plaza on I‑95 in New Hampshire,the Interstate 78 Toll Bridge, the Atlantic City Expressway, the Newark Toll Plaza on the Delaware Turnpike, the express lanes of the Atlantic City Expressway, in two locations on the New Jersey Turnpike—one at the southern end near the Delaware Memorial Bridge and one near the northern end of the western spur (just north of exit 16W)—the Garden State Parkway, the Pennsylvania Turnpike's Gateway, Warrendale and Mid-County (I‑476) toll plazas, new sections of the Mon-Fayette Expressway, and the New York State Thruway at the Woodbury toll barrier. In October 2006, Illinois completed open road tolling for I‑Pass and E‑ZPass users; it was the first U.S. state to have done so.
Each E-ZPass tag is specifically programmed for a particular class of vehicle; while any valid working tag will be read and accepted in any E‑ZPass toll lane, the wrong toll amount will be charged if the tag's programmed vehicle class does not match the vehicle. This will result in a violation and possible large fine assessed to the tag holder, especially if a lower-class (e.g., passenger car) tag is being used in a higher-class vehicle such as a bus or truck. In an attempt to avoid this, E‑ZPass tags for commercial vehicles are blue in color, contrasting with the white tags assigned to standard passenger vehicles. The blue E‑ZPass is also used in government employee vehicles. In New York, an orange E‑ZPass tag is issued to emergency vehicles as well as to employees of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and New York State Thruway Authority.
For purposes of interoperability, all agencies are connected to each other by a secure network (the "reciprocity network"). This network provides the means to process toll transactions and violations across the various agencies. Registration of a transponder causes data of the transponder's user to be stored on the network. This data will be available in approximately one hour on the primary network the unit is issued by (e.g., i‑Zoom, i‑Pass, E‑ZPass), but may be delayed by 24 hours on other networks.
Some issuing agencies offer a packaged E‑ZPass transponder preloaded with toll funds sold over-the-counter at a retail setting (such as a supermarket or pharmacy service desk) that are valid immediately. A portion of the balance is available instantly; customers can access the remaining balance when they register their transponders with the issuing E‑ZPass agency within several days of first using their tags.
The notion of electronic tolling had been considered as early as the 1980s, particularly in the New York metropolitan area. The tolling agencies of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania—which constitute two-thirds of the United States' $3 billion-a-year toll industry—sought to create a compatible electronic-tolling technology that could be used on the toll roads and bridges of the three states, in an effort to reduce congestion on some of the busiest roadways and toll plazas in the United States. In 1991, the E‑ZPass IAG was created to develop an interoperable system, and involved the participation and cooperation of seven independent toll agencies—The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, The New Jersey Turnpike Authority, The New Jersey Highway Authority—which, at the time, operated the Garden State Parkway—the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the New York State Thruway Authority, The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, and the South Jersey Transportation Authority (operator of the Atlantic City Expressway). The E‑ZPass trademark, however, belongs to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The Port Authority has been aggressive at protecting its trademark, including forcing the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to rename the "EZ Pass" regional transit pass to "EZ transit pass" to protect its rights.
On July 15, 1991, Colorado's E‑470 became the first highway in the United States to implement electronic tolling, via its "EXpressToll" system. E‑470 was engineered for open-road tolling from the beginning.
Under the direction of Peter Tufo, chairman of the New York State Thruway from 1989 to 1996, E‑ZPass was first deployed on the Thruway at the Spring Valley toll plaza on August 3, 1993. Over the following three and a half years, the New York State Thruway Authority (NYSTA) installed electronic toll-collection equipment, in stages, along the Thruway. By February 6, 1997, E‑ZPass had been installed along the entire length of the corridor.
Meanwhile, various other agencies began work on similar electronic toll collecting facilities. This resulted in the emergence of other networks:
Originally, these systems were not interchangeable with E‑ZPass. However, since most of them use the same technology (or have since converted over to a compatible technology), all of them have been incorporated into the E‑ZPass network. Though several still retain their own brand name for their own facilities, users of those systems can use E‑ZPass and vice versa. This allows, for example, travelers to drive on various toll roads in several states from Chicago, Illinois, to Atlantic City, New Jersey, with only an E‑ZPass tag.
Until 2005, drivers crossing the Peace Bridge between Fort Erie, Ontario, and Buffalo, New York, paid a toll before crossing to Canada. Following upgrades to the border crossings in 2005, drivers instead pay a toll on the Canadian side of the Peace Bridge after clearing Canadian customs. This is the only E‑ZPass toll booth outside of the United States. The toll goes to the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority, a bi-national agency that is charged to maintain the international bridge.
The E‑ZPass system continues to expand. The Indiana Toll Road Concessions Corporation has upgraded its toll plazas to include E‑ZPass functionality on the Indiana East–West Toll Road, while the Ohio Turnpike Commission has upgraded its toll plazas in October 2009 for the Ohio Turnpike (I‑76, I‑80, I‑90). The Indiana Toll Road Concession Company brands its E‑ZPass program as I‑Zoom; Ohio will use the E‑ZPass brand name. On December 16, 2008, Rhode Island joined the network by activating E‑ZPass lanes in the state's only toll booth, at the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge.
E‑ZPass ETC transponders do not work on all toll roads in the United States. Currently, the E-ZPass electronic toll-collection system (as well as the other ETC systems that are part of the E‑ZPass network) are not compatible with Florida systems (including SunPass and E‑Pass), California's FasTrak, Kansas's K‑Tag, Oklahoma's Pikepass, Texas's TxTag, Puerto Rico's AutoExpreso, Georgia's Peach Pass and Cruise Card, or other ETC systems outside of E‑ZPass operating regions.
In 2009 an organization called the Alliance for Toll Interoperability stated that it was exploring the option of using high-speed cameras to take photographs of the cars passing through non-E‑ZPass lanes in other states.
For E-ZPass subscribers who replenish their accounts with a major credit card the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey offers an E-ZPass option to pay for parking at three Port Authority airports—John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport—through a program known as E-ZPass Plus. This program is also available at Albany International Airport in Albany, New York, Syracuse Hancock International Airport in Syracuse, New York, and the Atlantic City International Airport near Atlantic City, New Jersey. It is also available for use at the New York Avenue Parking Garage in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the Atlantic City Surface Lot in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and the parking lots at the New York State Fair when the fair is in progress.
The parking payment is debited from the prepaid E‑ZPass account if the parking fee is less than $20. If it is more than $20, the amount is charged directly to the credit card used to replenish the E‑ZPass account. The Port Authority reports that drivers save an average of 15 seconds by opting to pay for airport parking using E‑ZPass.
Subscribers who replenish their E‑ZPass accounts with cash or check cannot participate in this program. Additionally, this service is only available, as of 2009, to customers of the New York (PANYNJ, MTA, or NYS Thruway), New Jersey, DelDOT, Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, Delaware River and Bay Authority, Maryland, or the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.
In late 2012, the I‑495 HOT (high occupancy toll) lanes in Virginia will support E‑ZPass FLEX transponders. These will work similarly to regular transponders, but will let the driver switch between HOV and toll-paying modes. When a transponder is switched to HOV mode (with three or more passengers in the vehicle) it will be read by the HOV lane's toll equipment but no toll will be charged.
Although not part of the E‑ZPass-Plus program, E‑ZPass users may also pay for parking at Pittsburgh International Airport. The E‑ZPass transponder is used for identification only.
The New York State Fair offered E‑ZPass Plus as a payment option at two of its parking lots for the first time in 2007, and offered the service again for subsequent seasons. The service was administered by the New York State Thruway Authority (NYSTA), and motorists' E‑ZPass accounts were charged the same $5 parking fee that cash customers were charged. Unlike other E‑ZPass Plus implementations, the State Fair systems charged motorists at the parking lot entrances; drivers opting to pay by E‑ZPass Plus used dedicated "E‑ZPass Plus Only" lanes. Since the lots only charge for parking during the twelve days of the State Fair, mobile, self-contained E-ZPass units were used to process vehicles. The units were mounted on trailers with a collapsible gantry for the E‑ZPass antennas, used a cellular wireless connection to send transactions to the NYSTA backoffice system, and were powered by batteries that were kept replenished by photovoltaic solar panels, with a generator for backup.
E‑ZPass can also be used to pay for parking at the Route‑128 Westwood Amtrak station in Westwood, Massachusetts. E‑ZPass transponders are also used to monitor traffic. A transponder reader is placed above the roadway at various intervals, and the time a particular tag takes between scans at each interval provides information about the speed of traffic between those points. This transit time information is often relayed back to motorists via electronic signs on the roadway. The individual tag data is not collected or used for ticketing purposes, as some sources have suggested.
The E‑ZPass transponder works by listening for a signal broadcast by the reader stationed at the toll booth. This 915 MHz signal is sent at 500 kbit/s using the IAG protocol in 256‑bit packets. Transponders use active Type II read/write technology. Mark IV Industries has proprietary rights over this system.
A study published in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, “Traffic Congestion and Infant Health: Evidence from E‑ZPass”, compared fetal health outcomes for mothers living near congested and uncongested toll plazas on three major highways in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The researchers focused on areas where toll plazas had instituted E‑ZPass, which, because cars travel through more efficiently, diminishes congestion and pollution. The study drew its conclusions by looking at the health outcomes of nearly 30,000 births among mothers who lived within two kilometers of an E‑ZPass toll plaza. The researchers state that their findings “suggest that the adoption of E-ZPass was associated with significant improvements of infant health”. The study's specific findings were: 1) In areas where E‑ZPass was adopted, rates of infant prematurity decreased by between 6.7% and 9.1%; this means that, out of the sample studied, 255 preterm births were avoided; 2) Introduction of E‑ZPass was correlated with a reduction in the incidence of low birth weight by between 8.5% and 11.3%; that means 275 cases of low birth weight were avoided.
Civil liberties and privacy rights advocates have expressed concern about how the position data gathered through E‑ZPass is used. As of August 2007, several states that employ E‑ZPass have provided electronic toll information in response to court orders in civil cases, including divorces and other non-criminal matters.
Position data is collected by antennas at locations in addition to fee collection locations. The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), for example, collect transponder information to provide real-time estimates of travel times between common destinations. By subtracting the time when vehicles pass under the first sign from the current time, the sign can display the expected travel time between the sign and the destination point ahead. This information is also used to determine the best times to schedule lane maintenance-related lane closures and for other traffic management purposes. According to NYSDOT, the individual tag information is encrypted, is deleted as soon as the vehicle passes the last reader, and is never made available to the Department.
Within the IAG, each member agency has its own billing and customer service center, and each establishes its own fee and discount structures. The agencies also set their own customer account policies. Areas of variation include the refundable deposit or nonrefundable charge for a tag, periodic maintenance fees, paper statement fees, the low account threshold, and replenishment amounts. E‑ZPass is usually offered as a debit account: tolls are deducted from prepayments made by the users. Users may opt to have prepayments automatically deposited when their account is low, or they may submit prepayments manually. For commercial accounts, some agencies allow postpaid plans with a security deposit (which effectively renders them prepaid accounts, with a different replenishment policy).
Some agencies have imposed periodic account maintenance fees on their subscribers. After New Jersey began losing money with the E‑ZPass system, a monthly account fee of one dollar was implemented on July 15, 2002 and is still in effect for both individual and business accounts. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey also charges a monthly individual account fee of one dollar. On July 1, 2009, the Maryland Transportation Authority began charging $1.50 a month to accountholders.
The Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA) in New York City once imposed a monthly account fee starting on July 1, 2005, claiming to defray the administrative costs. However, New York State Assembly Bill A06859A in 2005 and 2006 and Senate Bill S6331 in 2006 both considered such a fee threatening the efficiency to move traffic faster with lower tolls and sought to ban it. When the New York State Law started to ban the monthly account fee, the TBTA repealed it on June 1, 2006, and those, especially New Jerseyans, seeking New York accounts and avoiding the monthly fee still imposed by New Jersey and Port Authority, would have to apply for the TBTA or the New York State Thruway accounts at an E‑ZPass New York Service Center.
Several agencies offer discounted tolls to E-ZPass customers. The details vary widely, and can include general discounts for all E‑ZPass users, variable pricing discounts for off-peak hours, commuter plans with minimum usage levels, flat rate plans offering unlimited use for a period of time, carpool plans for high-occupancy vehicles, and resident plans for those living near particular toll facilities. Many of these plans are available only to customers whose tags are issued by the agency that owns the toll facility in question (reciprocity applies to tag acceptance, not to discounts). Seven authorities in the Northeast (Maine, the Massachusetts Turnpike, the New Hampshire Turnpike, Rhode Island, NYC TBTA, New Jersey Turnpike, and DelDOT) restrict their general discounts to their own respective tagholders.
Some agencies charge a one-time fee between $20 and $30 for each new transponder, including the Delaware Department of Transportation, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, and the Maine Turnpike Authority. At least two agencies, the Delaware River and Bay Authority and the Maryland Transportation Authority, are now charging multiple fees. In a press release dated July 17, 2007, the DRBA stated: "Beginning January 1, 2008, all DRBA E-ZPass account holders will be charged an account management fee of $1.50 per month. The transponder cost will also be passed on to E‑ZPass customers for each new transponder." In addition to charging a periodic account fee, the Maryland Transportation Authority is now charging a $21 fee for every transponder it provides. E‑ZPass New York charges a monthly fee of 50 cents for each tag in connection with a business account.
E‑ZPass users are not required to maintain their account with an agency in their home state. Subscribers can open an E‑ZPass account with any member of the IAG regardless of residency. This means that users have the option of choosing an agency based on the fees that it charges, effectively allowing them to circumvent transponder and account maintenance fees.
|State||Monthly/Annual Fee(s)||Deposit||Minimum Balance||Discounts|
|Delaware||$0 for email/web statements, $8/year for quarterly paper statements||$15 per internal or external transponder (non-refundable)||$10 minimum balance (Account charged a replenishment amount based on monthly toll usage.)||50% off cash rates for Delaware SR‑1 when 30 or more qualifying trips are made by a two-axle passenger vehicles within a 30-day rolling period.|
|Illinois (I-PASS)||$0 per month||$10 per internal transponder (refundable) automatic replenishment|
$20 (refundable) manual replenishment
|$10 minimum balance (Account charged a minimum replenishment amount of $40 or an amount 10% of average monthly usage, whichever is higher.)||50% off cash rate for all transponders (ISTHA tolls and passenger cars only)|
|Indiana (formally i‑Zoom)||$1 per month/transponder||$10 per internal transponder (refundable)||$2.50 minimum balance (first 90 days), then $2.50 minimum balance or 25% of average monthly usage, whichever is greater. (Account is charged a minimum replenishment amount of $10 in the first 90 days, after which the minimum replenishment amount is based on the previous three months of usage on your account and is recalculated on the first of each month, the minimum amount being $10.)||Discounts available to all transponders. Percentage varies by exit.|
|Maine||$0 per month||$10 per internal transponder (non-refundable)|
$17 per external transponder (non-refundable)
|$15 minimum balance (Account is charged a minimum replenishment amount of $20 when your account drops below minimum balance.)||Discounts based on travel volume: 30-39 account trips per month will equal a 25% discount applied to monthly account trips. 40+ account trips per month will equal a 50% discount applied to monthly account trips.|
|Maryland||$1.50 per month (waived if 3 Maryland E‑ZPass tolls incurred within a given month)||$9 per internal transponder (non-refundable)|
$33 per external transponder (non-refundable)
$40 per internal FUSION CVO (PrePass & E-ZPass all-in-one) transponder
$18 per internal E-ZPass Flex transponder (For use on I-495 Express Lanes)
|$10 minimum balance (Account is charged a minimum replenishment amount of $25 or an amount equal to you average monthly usage, whichever is higher.)||Discounts available to Maryland E‑ZPass users only. 10% discount off the passenger vehicle cash rate at all Maryland toll facilities except the InterCounty Connector (Maryland State Highway 200). Various other plans available for bridges and regions.|
|Massachusetts||$0 per month if monthly statements by e-mail||$0 per internal transponder||$20 minimum balance (Account is charged a replenishment amount whenever the balance falls below $10, replenishing the account to a balance of $20. If usage exceeds $20 in any given month, the account is charged $40.)||$0.25 discount at Allston-Brighton tolls, $0.50 discount at Sumner and Ted Williams tunnels and Tobin Memorial Bridge.|
|New Hampshire||$0 per month||$8.90 per internal transponder (non-refundable)|
$15.19 per external transponder (non-refundable)
|$30 minimum balance (Account is charged a minimum replenishment amount of $30 in the first 35 days, after which the minimum replenishment amount is based on the previous three months of usage on your account, the minimum amount being $30.)||30% off cash rate for NH transponders only. Other transponders pay cash rate.|
|New Jersey||$1 per month membership fee + $1 bimonthly for print/email statements||$10 per internal transponder (refundable) or $0 if credit or direct debit replenishment.||$10 or 25% of your replenishment threshold, whichever is greater (Account is charged a minimum replenishment amount of $25 in the first 90 days, after which the minimum replenishment amount is based on the previous three months of usage on your account, the minimum amount being $25.)||Various discounts for NJ transponders only. Other transponders pay cash rate.|
|New York||$1 per month PANYNJ account service fee (no fee for MTA, Thruway, or Bridge Authority accounts) + $6/yr for monthly paper statements (bimonthly statements are free)||$10 per internal transponder (refundable) or $0 if auto-replenish||$10 minimum balance (Account is charged a minimum replenishment amount of $25 or an amount equal to your average usage in a 90‑day period, whichever is higher.)||At all Port Authority facilities, E‑ZPass discounts are available. At MTA Bridges and Tunnels, $1.70 off cash tolls. $3.40 off round-trip at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and $1.45 discount at the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial and Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridges. At all New York State Thruway and New York State Bridge Authority facilities, E‑ZPass discounts apply.|
|North Carolina (Quick Pass)||$0 per month, $1 per month after 12 consecutive months of no toll transactions.||$20 per internal (hard case) transponder||$20 minimum balance for first two transponders, $10 for each additional transponder, up to five transponders total. (Account is charged a minimum replenishment amount of $10 or when account balance is 25% of your replenishment threshold, based on the previous three months of usage, whichever is greater.)|
|Ohio||$0.75 per month||$0 per internal transponder ($25 replacement fee within first four years)||$25 minimum balance per transponder (Account is charged a minimum replenishment amount based on the previous three months of usage, or the amount needed to return the account balance to $25.00 per transponder, whichever is greater.)||Ohio discount available to all transponders. Percentage varies by exit.|
|Pennsylvania||$3 per year/transponder||$10 per internal transponder (refundable) or $0 if credit or direct debit replenishment||$10 per transponder. (Account is charged a minimum replenishment amount of $35 whenever the balance reaches a total value of $10 or less ($15 or less for manual replenishment accounts) per transponder. If your account requires more than the allowed replenishments in a one-month cycle (2 times for credit cards and 3 times for ACH), the amount of replenishment will switch to average usage.)||25% discount off cash rate to all transponders.|
|Rhode Island||$0 per month if monthly statements by e‑mail||$20.95 per internal transponder (purchase required)|
$33.04 per external transponder (purchase required)
|$25 minimum balance per transponder (Account is charged a minimum replenishment amount based on the previous 45-days of usage and is recalculated every 90-days, or the amount needed to return the account balance to $25.00 per transponder, whichever is greater.)|
|Virginia||$0 per month for transponders issued before July 9, 2012 and if monthly statements by e‑mail. $.50 per month for standard transponders and $1 per month for E‑ZPass Flex transponders issued on or after July 9, 2012. The E-ZPass Flex transponder $1 fee will be waived for those months in which the Flex transponder is used only on the 495 Express Lanes with 3 or more in the vehicle and is solely for free HOV usage on the I-495 Express Lanes.||$35 per internal transponder||$10 minimum balance per transponder (Account is charged a minimum replenishment amount of $35 per transponder or an amount equal to your average monthly usage, whichever is higher.)|
|West Virginia||$5 per year for "prepaid" plan (Includes free use of the North Beckley ramp on the West Virginia Turnpike.) Flat rate, unlimited use plans range from $5 to $285 for various parts of the West Virginia Turnpike.||$10 per internal transponder||$10 minimum balance (Account is charged a minimum replenishment amount of $20. No balance needed with annual WV unlimited plan.)||35% off cash rate and use of Beckley WV exit freely for WV transponders only (non-WV transponders pay cash rate)|
The following agencies accept E‑ZPass at their toll facilities:
The following tolled roads, bridges, tunnels, and airports accept E‑ZPass. Crossings between jurisdictions are listed in the state or province where the toll collection point is located.
There are a small number of toll facilities, mostly bridges run by independent authorities, that are not part of the E-ZPass network even though they are in a state that is in the E-ZPass region. These facilities are:
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