North Carolina motorists "baffled" and "perplexed" by marketing?
2012-05-02: The Raleigh News Observer reports that Raleigh area commuters who drive the southern portion of the Triangle Expressway or NC-540 have been sent "baffling bills" and "perplexing messages" telling them "they owe nothing for driving on the part… not yet under toll."
It turns out this is simply MAR-KET-ING!
The short stretch of the expressway in question has toll systems in place on the mainline but won't start collecting tolls until about August when a further longer stretch of NC-540 is open to the south. The toll gantry on the open stretch (Toll Point 4 in the map below) is just reading any mainline transponders it 'sees' but not tolling them, while vehicles without a transponder are being imaged with the toll system cameras.
Names and addresses of vehicle owners of frequent users are being extracted from motor registry files in order to mail a marketing letter to pitch the value of a transponder.
The pitch says quite reasonably the trip they just made is free and there is no toll now, but that come August there will be a toll.
The marketing letter sells transponders - ISO180006B sticker tags branded NC QUICK PASS - by saying that come August the toll will begin and spelling out the tag's 35% discount on the toll and the $5 monthly service fee for video tolling, branded Bill By Mail.
55% transponders now, hoping 65% later in the year
On the tolled northern leg NC-147 about 55% of users have the NC QUICKPASS transponder and 45% get BILL BY MAIL. That opened to traffic December 8 2011 and began tolling January 2 this year. There are now 17,000 transponders in use now and the Turnpike hopes many more will be in use when the long stretch of NC-540 Toll opens late summer.
They're hoping the transponder share of tolling will be in the mid-60s percent range then.
Our guess is that not many motorists in the area are really "baffled" or "perplexed," as the local paper says, when they get marketing materials telling them how they can save money on their tolls in the fall.
Also come August North Carolina Turnpike should be compatible with E-ZPass. Readers on the NC turnpike gantries will read E-ZPass equipped vehicles from the north, and tolls will appear on their E-ZPass account.
And an optional hard case NC dual mode transponder is being sold to North Carolina motorists to operate in E-ZPassland. Business rules and arrangements for file exchanges are in place and final testing of systems is underway now.
This will be the first deployment of TransCore's multimode eZGo Anywhere transponders, and the first time for interoperability between E-ZPass and a basically ISO18000-6 series sticker tag toll system.
The multimode transponders are selling for $20 vs $5 for the sticker tag.