New Mobile App is First to Calculate Tolls Across US & Canada – Demystifying How and Where Transponders Work
Are you good at math? Do you enjoy spending time on complex problems? If not, good luck trying to figure out how much tolls will cost on an upcoming trip. Take the following as an example. Let’s say you are planning to drive from Chicago to New York City and back and you want to calculate how much you will need to budget for tolls. Here are the steps you would need to take:
- First you would have to plot the route using a mapping site that shows where you’ll encounter tolls, like Google Maps or Mapquest.
- Next you’ll have to identify the tolling agency for each tolling facility you’ll encounter (for example, the Port Authority of NY & NJ operate the Holland and Lincoln tunnels).
- Then you’ll have to go to each tolling agency website and hope they have a toll calculator available (many do – but you need to know exactly at which exit you’ll enter and exit the toll road, something very difficult if you’re unfamiliar with the region).
- Then, if you own a transponder (i.e., E-ZPass), you’ll have to figure out where you’ll receive discounts as it varies, even within tolling systems. For example, E-ZPass discounts in Maryland only apply to E-ZPass transponders issued by the Maryland Dept. of Transportation, E-ZPass transponders issued in other states pay the cash rate.
- After you’ve figured out all of the above, then you need to add them all together to come up with a total cost of tolls for the trip.
- But wait! You’re still not done. Now go back to Step 1 and do it all over again for the return trip as some tolls only apply in one direction, meaning toll costs will be different for the return trip.
This newest version of the app adds a whole new level of personalization by enabling users to select the transponder(s) they have from 49 electronic tolling commission (ETCs) across the US and Canada. Discounts are then automatically applied.
New Feature Highlights Transponder Savings
Another valuable new feature of the app is the route details screen that provides detailed information on how transponder discounts are calculated for your route, as well as the undercounted rates for paying in cash or by video toll so you can see the savings. For example, looking at the details screen for the Chicago-NYC trip below, you can see that you’ll save $12.60 by having an iPass account (which is part of the E-ZPass network). And that’s traveling just one-way, you’ll save another $10.35 on the return trip making for a total savings of $22.95 off the $75.65 cash rate, a whopping 30% savings!
Find Alternate Routes That Will Save You Money
Best of all is a new feature that allows you to view alternate routes that could save you money. The app displays the toll costs for as many as three routes to your destination, and tapping on each route reveals the driving time and distance so you can easily compare the routes and make the smartest decision.
Avoid Toll Violations
Additionally the new Tollsmart app clarifies where transponders are accepted, and uses color coded push pins to visually display this information on the map to show which toll gates will accept your transponder(s) (green) and which you’ll need to pay in cash at the booth or be billed in the mail via video tolling technology (purple), so no more guessing as to whether you’ve run a toll gate, and no more surprises in the mail upon returning from a trip. Users can also view this information by tapping on the push pin for each toll facility.
Toll System Interoperability
There is some good news on the horizon as the federal government has stepped in with legislation mandating that by Oct. 1, 2016 all tolling systems on the federal-aid highways in the US interoperate (meaning an E-ZPass transponder will work on Florida’s SunPass toll facilities). As a result the major tolling groups highlighted on the map below are actively pursuing ways to achieve interoperability in order to meet the 2016 deadline.
The legislation, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama on July 6, 2012 is known as MAP-21; Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, and also provides for the construction of Express (HOT) Lanes, as previously tolls were prohibited on federally funded interstates. We’re working on adding these HOT lanes in a future version of the Tollsmart app as well as including additional vehicle sizes and developing a version for Android devices.
Meanwhile the latest version of the app goes a long way toward demystifying tolls for travelers across North America, but our goal is to make it even better, and here’s where we need your help.
How You Can Help
As this new version of the Tolls Calculator app is a major upgrade to prior versions we expect there will be some bugs we haven’t yet uncovered, and so we’ve added a new Feedback button to the Options menu to make it easier for you to let us know if you’ve come across any discrepancies in tolls or missing information, or to send us suggestions for how we can improve the app.
You can also use the Facebook button to leave feedback on our Tollmsart Facebook page. This feedback is critical to ensuring we’re providing you with the best experience possible, so please share with us any thoughts or comments you have as we read every piece of feedback and try to incorporate as much as possible into future versions of the app.
Below is a video that provides additional information on the app.