Commenting on news reports that the government is considering new policy initiatives to raise revenues from motoring, including road user charging (RUC), Dr Ben Miners, chief innovation officer for IMS, which has successfully piloted RUC projects in several US states and participates in all RUC production deployments in North America, said:
“Road user charging (RUC) and electronic toll collection (ETC) are both important solutions to fairly generate revenue from road users.
ETC focuses on specific concessions or fixed points with a roadside/infrastructure approach whereas RUC focuses on the broader transportation network with an infrastructure-free (existing wireless infrastructure) approach.
While the approaches are different, there are synergies when it comes to the management of payments and collection, whether through a prepaid wallet scheme, a recurring fee, or a post-paid model. For example, a common wallet and payment system can be used for both existing tolls and RUC schemes to simplify the end-user experience.
The additional flexibility of RUC enables new virtual tolls to be introduced and transform any road segment or fixed asset into a “tolled” road, which eliminates lengthy construction times / shorten time-to-market for Telepass (an electronic toll collection system used in Italy) or Via Verde (Portugese toll system).
The expansion of this payment system to include relevant value-add from partners is also common to both ETC (like Telepass or Via Verde) and RUC, where the same wallet can be used to pay for related services including parking, mass transit, active mobility options (e-scooters), EV charging stations, or drive-through retail stores (coffee).
Unifying RUC and ETC through a single, common payment systems ensure road users can travel seamlessly through existing toll gantries in addition to flexible RUC schemes on all other roads, while also enabling convenient payments for broader mobility related services.
Eventually ETC providers must either embrace RUC as part of the solution, or they risk disintermediation. This is subject to long-term concession arrangements and physical infrastructure, but the superset of capabilities RUC provides will make it difficult to justify ongoing investment in gantry-based tolling in many cases when critical mass / most vehicles are equipped with telematics.”
US State case studies for RUC projects with IMS involvement
IMS powers the only two enacted US programmes today in Utah and Oregon. We forecast a significant increase in the adoption of RUC over the next decade as currently enacted programs continue to expand and as more states transition from studies and pilots to beneficial deployments, including IMS’ involvement in pilots in California and Washington in addition to ongoing collaboration with many other states.
We are confident that the change in US administration will not impede rollout of RUC as it already has bi-partisan support in both the House and the Senate. On the other hand, there is a strong possibility that RUC legislation is accelerated at both state and federal level, given early positive indications of a return to the Paris Climate Change Treaty and fast increasing road fund deficits.