96 People Representing 19 Nations Attend April Webinar

April's IRF Webinar Wendesday drew nearly 100 participants from 19 countries. Attendees benefited from a comprehensive presentation by 3M's Ryan Shultz and Dwight Jordan on Multi-Lane Free Flow Tolling. The presenters highlighted recent trends in the industry and provided an overview of what MLFF is, how it works, relevant case studies and a Q&A session.

MLFF Overview

Developed in the 1980s, electronic toll collection is arguably the most common and financially successful intelligent transport systems application. ETC relies on radio-frequency identification tags (also called transponders) to automate the collection of tolls without the need for vehicles to stop. In traditional ETC, vehicles enter designated lanes at a toll plaza and tag readers at the booth identify the tag on the vehicle and initiate an electronic transaction (the actual subtraction of the toll fare is done in an electronic clearinghouse). While ETC represents a quantum-leap over manual toll collection that can result in long vehicle queues and wasted time and fuel, free-flow tolling (also called open road tolling) does away with the toll booths and toll plazas and places the tag readers on gantries over the road. The system includes the use of cameras that capture images of the license plates of passing vehicles, thus providing identity verification via automatic license recognition (with optical character recognition software). Theses cameras also identify vehicles that do not have tags (and the drivers get billed by mail). Free flow also allows the deployment of tolling technology in urban settings where higher densities would make traditional ETC infrastructure difficult to build. In the case of multilane free flow tolling, multiple lanes are used at the same time and typically all vehicles are equipment with tags, or in some systems, license plate reading cameras are used as the only system. This type of solution is implemented in London and Stockholm for congestion charging purposes. The major advantages of MLFF include reduced congestion (capacity increase), the ability to implement tolling in urban settings where toll plazas would be difficult to build, lower fuel consumption, added safety (with the removal of toll booths), and substantial time savings for drivers. The disadvantage is the possibility of "leakage"; that is, "violators" who do not pay. Leakage may either be written off as an expense by the toll operator, or offset in part or whole by fees and fines collected against the violators. The multi-lane free flow is a system that allows free-flow high-speed tolling for all highway users. With MLFF, current toll lanes at toll plazas can be replaced with ordinary multilane road segments. By using tags with readers at gantry across the highway to detect vehicle and deduct toll using the existing Electronic Toll Collection when fully implemented. Using only video and automatic license plate recognition it is also possible to have a MLFF system without using tags and readers.

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