North Carolina and E-ZPass interoperable from January 3, 2013

2012/12/27: North Carolina becomes part of the E-ZPass area of electronic toll interoperability (IOP) January 3, 2013, the E-ZPass group has announced jointly with North Carolina. In an announcement headlined "North Carolina's Quick Pass and E-ZPass Now Function as One" the E-ZPass Group's chief executive PJ Wilkins calls it a great day for travelers within the 15 state E-ZPass region (Maine to Virginia, Atlantic City to Illinois) and a "monumental business agreement" for the toll industry.

This is the first time that the big E-ZPass group of tollers has implemented interoperability with a toll system built basically around the southern passive sticker tag technology - of the kind used in Florida, Georgia, Texas and Oklahoma.

The announcement today quotes David Joyner NC Turnpike chief executive: "NC Quick Pass customers who have hard case transponders can now travel from North Carolina to Maine, or west to Illinois, utilizing the convenience of all electronic tolling."

NC sec trans Conti hopes IOP will spread

NC transport secretary Gene Conti is quoted: "I am very proud that North Carolina is the first state to implement an agreement of this kind with E-ZPass. This allows our customers the freedom to travel on many tolling facilities with the same ease as traveling at home. We hope that other states will join as well so that all US drivers can share in this convenience."

The E-ZPass Group headline needs qualifying to the extent that North Carolina drivers do need the hardcase dual protocol (Mark IV IAG and TransCore 6B+ SeGo) Quick Pass transponder from Virginia north. Most of the 50,000 Quick Pass transponders sold are the simple 6B+ sticker tags, which will not for the moment be read in E-ZPass territory.

E-ZPass readers over the toll lanes in the north and midwest will read the TransCore Quick Pass hardcase transponders as if they were a regular Kapsch single protocol E-ZPass. Similarly the TransCore multiprotocol readers on the Triangle Expressway in Raleigh that are mostly reading the passive 6B+ sticker tags will read any northern vehicles on their road using their active Kapsch-made E-ZPass transponders.

With the NC/E-ZPass agreement dubbed as "monumental" any business agreements to be reached with Florida, Texas and Oklahoma will have to be mega-monumental.  

Unlikely NC arrangements with E-ZPass can be replicated TX, FL

That's because it seems quite unlikely the North Carolina formula for interoperability based on a dual protocol transponder can be replicated in the larger states with established tollroads.

NC started selling their dual protocol transponder as usable for E-ZPass before their tollroad even opened. To tell Texans and Floridians they need to buy a new special transponder to pay tolls up north would be a much harder sell. And in choosing their readers NC Turnpike chose new multiprotocol readers to handle E-ZPass.

Most Florida and Texas tollroads have dual protocol readers already to read legacy ATA and Allegro protocol as well as 6B+ to read internally to their own electronic toll systems.  To handle E-ZPass as well they would need to swap out several thousand readers over their tolling points for the most modern read-em-all models.

There remains the question of how E-ZPass tollers will read sticker tags. Probably not by RFID at all but by using their enforcement cameras to image their license plates.

Trouble is there are some big E-ZPass toll agencies adamantly opposed to such 'video' tolling - notably the big New York tollers - but also others.

IOP elsewhere more difficult

If the 2016 federal deadline for national interoperability is to be met hard decisions and procurements and business changes are inevitable.

Some combination of:

- two protocol transponders like NC hardcase

- a giveaway 6C as the second protocol for those in single protocol region wanting national interoperability (IOP)

- multiprotocol readers that can read an agreed list of protocols installed in place of the more restricted single or dual protocol readers

- acceptance of license plates as the universal identifier and refinement of license plate reading camera systems and more accurate and exchangeable linkage of license plate numbers to toll accounts and owner ID

It almost certainly won't be neat and tidy, it seems, but there is progress toward engineering the linkages for interoperability -

- first the announcement December 19 of interoperability between Florida, North Carolina and Georgia due to be in place around mid-year (tentatively July 1, 2013.)

- Now we have the IOP announcement #2 E-ZPass/NC which will be #1 IOP operating.

Read all about it! From the horses mouths!

Today's announcement recommends two places for motorists to see how NC/E-ZPass IOP will work:

TOLLROADSnews 2012/12/27