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Toll authority committee approves Fastrak strategic plan

By Angela Hokanson, Bay City News Service

June 15, 2006

The oversight committee of the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) Wednesday approved an updated version of the strategic plan for FasTrak. The plan seeks to improve the efficiency of the toll plazas on the Bay Area's seven state-owned bridges by increasing the use of FasTrak, BATA officials reported.

The full BATA will consider the plan at its June 28 meeting.

The two-year strategic plan proposes to convert more bridge lanes to FasTrak-only lanes, to improve the distribution and marketing of FasTrak transponders, and to test new technologies to improve toll plaza operations.

The plan seeks to improve the efficiency of toll plazas by increasing the percentage of drivers who use FasTrak to 70 percent during commuting hours and 50 percent on the weekends.

At present, only 42 percent of motorists use FasTrak on state owned bridges during the height of the commute.

FasTrak lanes can accommodate approximately three times as many vehicles per hour as toll lanes where cash is used, according to BATA officials. By allowing more vehicles to pass through toll plazas in the same amount of time, the use of FasTrak creates a quicker trip on most bridges.

The strategic plan calls for FasTrak transponders to be available at select retail locations by late August or early September. Also, the initial prepaid balance on transponders for customers opening a FasTrak account with a credit card would be reduced from $40 to $25, in order to make the FasTrak program more accessible.

In April 2007, according to the strategic plan, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the California Department of Transportation will convert more lanes to FasTrak-only lanes on some of the state-owned bridges in the region.

According to traffic analysis done by the MTC and Caltrans, if more toll lanes are switched to FasTrak-only lanes but more people do not enroll in FasTrak, toll payers who use cash could face increased delays at toll plazas.

"The projected delays in the cash lanes can be avoided if enough people switch to FasTrak,'' said Rod McMillan, director of Bridge Oversight and Operations for the MTC.

BATA also plans to improve the signage around toll plazas to direct traffic to the appropriate lane well before vehicles arrive at the toll plaza, McMillan said.

There are approximately 500,000 FasTrak accounts open throughout the Bay Area, according to BATA.

Motorists can sign up for the FasTrak program online at http://www.511.org or at http://www.bayareafastrak.org. Motorists may also enroll by calling 511 or by visiting the FasTrak customer service center at 475 The Embarcadero in San Francisco.

Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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