TCA’s New Payment Method: Simple and Sticky

Thursday, September 06, 2018

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For those of us who never dedicated windshield space to the toll roads transponder and are still chasing the 4-inch plastic box all over the dashboard—relief is on the way.

Greater Irvine Chamber Leaders Circle member Transportation Corridor Agencies, operators of state routes 73, 133, 241 and 261, are replacing the hard-case transponder with adhesive 6C tags. The Band-Aid-sized stickers, which will be available on July 1, are cheaper to make, store and mail. TCA says the switch will save toll-road operators about $3 million a year, and that it’ll pass on the savings to 1.3 million account holders by eliminating the $2 monthly maintenance fee.

TCA, comprised of the Foothill/ Eastern Transportation Corridor and San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor agencies, will also rebrand and reduce the number of account options from four to three: FasTrak Prepaid, which combines the FasTrak and ExpressAccount Prepaid options; FasTrak Charge—now known as ExpressAccount Charge—and FasTrak Invoice, which will replace ExpressAccountInvoice. Gone are ExpressAccount options used by about 650,000 riders. The options relied on photos of license plates to collect tolls and could only be used on toll roads in Orange County. In addition, FasTrak PrePaid users will be able to participate in the new “frequent driver discount program” and receive $1 off each toll transaction after they spend $40 or more driving the four toll roads in the previous month—so a “FasTrak customer commuting to and from work five days a week will save a minimum of $40 a month,” according to a Toll Roads press release.

A short-term marketing campaign is in the works to ensure riders understand the changes and adopt the new technology without a glitch. TCA hired Long Beach-based consultants S. Groner Associates Inc. to develop materials to relay the changes and to provide the packaging to distribute the sticker transponders. The agencies’ marketing consultant, DB&M Media Inc. in Costa Mesa, is producing a series of educational videos to explain the account changes and use of the 6C sticker tags, and to “implement targeted digital advertising as components of the comprehensive communication plan,” according to a staff report prepared for TCA’s Joint Toll Operations Committee.

Web Advanced in Irvine is developing a microsite to host the videos on the website.

“Our main concern is that when we issue and mail out all these sticker transponders, that they don’t get tossed in the trash,” said Chief Communications Officer Lisa Telles. “We want to make sure we communicate in multiple ways to our customer base and that the self-help tools we create for our website are relevant and simple. And we want our customers to look forward to the arrival of their new sticker transponder in the mail and understand the benefits.”

The sticker tags will allow users to pay tolls electronically across California and the other 6C tolling- technology states: Washington, Colorado, Utah, Kentucky, Indiana, Georgia, North Carolina, and Louisiana.

Neology Inc. in San Diego and Kapsch TrafficCom USA Inc. in McLean, Va., will produce the tags under a three-year, $5 million contract. TCA will place an order for approximately 3 million tags this month at a cost of about $2.1 million. The order will support a pilot program for approximately 200,000 rental cars, and the balance will be sent to account holders starting April.

The marketing overhaul comes as The Toll Roads’ operators shift to financial cruise control—S&P, Moody’s and Fitch all increased ratings on TCA bond issues to investment grade in the last year. The ratings agencies cited a boost in usage of the 51 miles of toll roads, the state’s biggest network.

TCA is part of a 6C Coalition, an organization composed of public toll road operators that use the ISO 18000-63 transponders, commonly known as 6C.

It has about 6 million vehicles registered to account holders, and each will get its own sticker tag.

“We will provide a sticker for each license plate associated with the account,” Telles said. “That will help people who have only one [hard case] transponder in their household and they’re trying to always remember where it is.”

The sticker tags, while less obtrusive, aren’t equipped with a switch that allows users to self-declare carpooling on L.A. Metro’s I-10 and I-110 ExpressLanes, and ride toll-free. So don’t let the hard-case transponders slide out the window just yet.

Source: Orange County Business Journal

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