Friday, March 2, 2012

How do we toll returning Snowbirds and other visitors?

Mention tolls and a lot of drivers think of waiting in line to hand over cash to an attendant in a booth. But thanks to technology there are no tollbooths on SR 520 – it is all-electronic, video tolling. Most frequent SR 520 flyers have a Good To Go! pass and account so toll paying is easier than ever.

But how do snowbirds returning from spending the winter in Arizona or other out-of-town visitors pay for tolls when they cross the SR 520 bridge? With video tolling, a camera on the bridge snaps license plate photos and mails a toll bill and processing fee to the vehicle owner. You can also choose to add your out-of-town guest’s license plate to your account while they are in town to have their tolls deducted from your Good To Go! account. Visitors can set up their own Short Term Account for their trip to Seattle. It’s that easy.

O.K., so it’s not always that easy. A twitter comment we received was how come Europe has been successfully tolling for dozens of years and we can’t seem to get it right? Well, again, it is not that simple. Since most drivers in our state are new to all-electronic tolling—we are new to it, too—there is a learning curve for everyone involved.

While technology has brought us all-electronic tolling and easier ways to pay, it has also brought us the typical system bugs and quirks of any new system. Whether it is a driver receiving a toll bill for another state’s plate or a driver unintentionally getting a 25-cent charge because the sensor couldn’t read their pass, the system, while 99.9 percent accurate, is not error free.

With 60,000 to 70,000 cars currently using the SR 520 bridge each day, there will certainly be processes that do not go right for some reason or another. These recurring bugs and one-time system glitches will happen for a percentage of transactions and customers every day this is something we expected and one of the reasons we have customer service representatives available in person or on the phone to answer questions

So, when snowbirds or other guest comes to town tell them to go ahead and cross the bridge but keep their change because with new tolling technology they’ll know that the bill is in the mail even if they live in another state.

Let us know your technology questions and take a look at this animation video that gives you a better idea on how our video toll system works.