An otherwise routine story on the Uproad toll app illustrates the technology gap in transportation.
Uproad has quietly rolled out the technology as an option for transponders – the radio thingies you put on the windshield that send a signal to the thingamajig that records the toll and takes down your license plate number.
Transponders and billing can be a pain. If the battery dies or the credit card expires, you receive a written notice from the tolling authority. Responses range from a gentle prod from Maryland to a semi-threatening letter from New Jersey.
For businesses, transponders on multiple vehicles can create a lot of headaches. When the device goes south, the violation notices pile up, and the accounting staff has to straighten things out.
Customer service varies widely by state. Delaware E-ZPass has excellent service, based on a few calls dealing with expired credit cards and a dead transponder.
Uproad and other providers are working to make their apps work coast to coast and partially succeed, although issues, such as commuter discounts, may remain.
Uproad also has a nice feature that calculates tolls (be prepared for sticker shock on the Pennsylvania Turnpike).
Best of all, you don’t have to put a transponder on each vehicle. Uproad also points out that many tollways no longer accept cash, meaning you will be sent a bill, perhaps with a service charge and the cost of a stamp.
Uproad notes that the app could save toll agencies money, since its use would end the task of tracking down license tags and sending bills.
So far, Uproad technology works throughout most if not all of the E-ZPass system and California.
After the story was posted, I received an Email message from the Delaware River and Bay Authority stating that its E-ZPass system does not use Uproad. I added that note to the story.
Uproad disagreed. It turned out that the app has not been endorsed by either River and Bay or the Delaware Department of Transportation.
It led to the next question. Are the E-ZPass gods working on their own app or otherwise finding a way to adopt new technology? The answer – your guess is as good as mine.
There has been plenty of time to move forward. It has been more than a decade since Apple and Google jumped into the app game.
The E-ZPass Group, an agency that coordinates the system and might have some knowledge of such things, has an office in Wilmington but no listed phone number or Email address. The website has not been updated in a couple of years, and the last Twitter post took place around that time.
The lack of public access is understandable since the tiny office would lure plenty of angry people who received dunning notices. The Better Business Bureau also lists dozens of E-ZPass customer complaints.
None of these problems go away with the app. But businesses, in particular, would wind up with fewer headaches.
With technology advancing, one has to wonder if the transponder is going through the Betamax video recorder or the eight-track tape?
As the Biden Administration rolls out a massive infrastructure bill, one less costly focus area should be on transportation technology that saves fuel, reduces congestion and make mass transit more attractive.
The private sector stands ready to make some good things happen if we let ’em loose. – Doug Rainey, chief content officer.