The transport industry has evolved since the first toll was paid and the gatekeeper turned the pike. Since that time, we have all grown independently in terms of business rules, technology and methods. Now that customers and political leaders have demanded that we build an integrated system, we’ll all need to adapt and change what we do to make it all work together. We can approach this in numerous ways, but one thing we must do is look at what the future will demand.
Five years ago, most politicians didn’t care about tolling or interoperability. Now, we have federal mandates and premature announcements that have pressured agencies into short-sighted agreements. Will we achieve national interoperability? And by what means?
Regional interoperability through a peer-to-peer network: Efforts in this category have been initiated by E-ZPass, which is looking to lower its membership fees to attract the rest of the USA into its functional regional system. The southern region is working to establish an ‘E-ZPass of the South’ that could become another peer-to-peer network.
Regional interoperable systems will work, but as we have seen, these can be cumbersome to manage. Agreements are negotiated peer-to-peer and generally, one agency carries the cost of operating and maintaining the hub. Thus, dues are assessed in some manner to cover this cost load. In the end, peer-to-peer networks are more costly and difficult to maintain and operate technically.
Local interoperability through a local HUB: The HUB interoperability solution also offers a sign-up approach and furthermore offers the greatest flexibility, as technology and business rules change, and services are added.
National interoperability through the ATI Central HUB: There is also the national HUB developed by 50 US toll agency members. The ATI HUB is now ready to go, having gone through a public procurement and selection process. This system matches both license plate and transponder accounts between member agencies. The ATI HUB has integrated settlement capabilities using a major bank with a zero-sum account. Costs for this agency-owned system will be divided up among ATI HUB members. Transponders built in to vehicles and a central DMV lookup are also on the horizon.
IBTTA’s driving support for national interoperability: The IBTTA Interoperability Committee has made amazing progress thanks, in part, to Tim Riley and his Business Rules Committee, for developing what could become an industry standard. But compromise is still needed in areas such as class on tag, guaranteed tolls and governance.
Tom Knucky’s Tag and Reader Group has also accomplished something no one thought possible. They have shortlisted three technologies for further evaluation. But compromise is again needed. Who pays for the testing? What should it cover? How much is it to test from end to end?
This year has seen several answers to national interoperability surface. Some will enable interoperablity today, but all will involve the ability to compromise and the willingness to collaborate. Everyone has to develop a common vision of the future to foresee what customers will want in 3, 5 or 10 years, but at the same time not waiting for the perfect solution.