Washington State Comprehensive Tolling Study: Final Report – Volume 2: Background Paper #8: Toll Technology Considerations, Opportunities, and Risks
The comprehensive tolling study conducted by Cambridge Systematics for the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) set out to provide recommendations to guide Washington as it develops toll facilities in the State. These policies emerged from background research and technical analysis.
The Washington State tolling study describes different types of electronic toll collection (ETC) methods, how they are applied to various toll facilities, note lessons learned from past experiences, and identifies the advantages and disadvantages of each. Furthermore, the study addresses institutional issues relating back office operations and enforcement processes.
Back office operations include customer service and violations processing. One of the main ways to control operational costs is to optimize the allocation of work between automated and manual processes. This means guaranteeing the minimum level of accuracy and efficiency of the tolling and image capture subsystems. Of additional importance is developing strong working relationships with adjacent toll authorities so as to improve reconciliation. The following lessons should act as guidance for agencies seeking to better their back office processes.
- Avoid toll and violation processing errors. Avoiding errors, especially those relating to user payments, is of crucial importance since such errors might induce negative reactions, which could be relayed and amplified by the media. Implementing multiple validations for selected sensitive operations is one way to minimize these errors.
- Ensure there is a strong audit function in the toll collection process. Toll collection requires that strong cross checks, using automatic vehicle classification technology, revenue reports, and audit trails are in place to ensure that internal fraud is deterred and identified. Additionally, as customer account balances constantly fluctuate in real time there is a further need for strong accounting practices.
- Address key elements that are conducive to efficient back office processes; including:
- Accuracy of license plate recognition and image validation subsystems.
- Minimizing customer service center staff time through emphasis on self-service techniques, such as online account access and interactive voice response.
- Integration of non-automated customer service channels for inbound communications (faxes, e-mails, voice -recorded messages) with the automated portion. This requires connectors, which are software modules parsing the events from non-automated channels and generating input necessary for activating back office interventions.
- Efficient use of technology to reduce the costs of communicating with customers (e.g., voice mails with text-to-speech technology).
- Integration of a centralized workflow management tool that monitors and maximizes the efficiency of operational activities at both an individual and departmental level.
- Coordinate with adjacent toll authorities to allow for easier transaction reconciliation. In order to provide a more seamless customer experience, neighboring toll authorities frequently work together to interface their systems to accept transponder transactions from each other’s customers, and to reconcile these transactions behind the scenes via a financial clearinghouse.
Depending on current practices, tolling authorities may need to increase the efficiency and accuracy of their back office operations. Adequately addressing key issues relating to accounting, processing, and partnerships will help develop a more optimal tolling operation. This increased emphasis on efficiency and accuracy of the back office operations will cut down on error and help to increase the ITS goal of customer satisfaction.