FasTrak

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FasTrak logo Fastrak.svg
FasTrak logo
Mounted FasTrak transponder FasTrak transponder.jpg
Mounted FasTrak transponder

FasTrak is the electronic toll collection (ETC) system used in the state of California in the United States. The system is used statewide on all of the toll roads, toll bridges, and high-occupancy toll lanes along the California Freeway and Expressway System.

Contents

As with other ETC systems, FasTrak is designed to eliminate the need for cars to stop to pay at toll booths, thus decreasing the traffic congestion traditionally associated with toll roads. Its use of technology to improve transit is in line with the U.S. Department of Transportation's Intelligent Transportation Systems initiative.

Under California's government structure, the state's toll facilities are operated by various agencies and special-purpose districts. Concerned that they would each introduce different, incompatible ETC systems, the California State Legislature passed Senate Bill 1523 in 1990, requiring the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to develop a statewide specification that all these toll agencies were required to meet. [1] Three years later, Transportation Corridor Agencies opened the Foothill Toll Road in Orange County, implementing the statewide ETC system for the first time, and naming it FasTrak. The state continues to delegate the responsibility of selling and maintaining FasTrak accounts to the different toll agencies.

Operations and functionality

Diagram of FasTrak toll collections system. As the vehicle enters the toll lane, sensors (1) detect the vehicle. The two-antenna configuration (2) reads a transponder (3) mounted on the vehicle's windshield. As the vehicle passes through the exit light curtain (4), it is electronically classified by the treadle (5) based on the number of axles, and the ETC account is charged the proper amount. Feedback is provided to the driver on an electronic sign (6). If the vehicle does not have a transponder, or if a transponder is not detected at the toll plaza, the system classifies it as a violator and cameras (7) take photos of the vehicle and its license plate for processing. If the license plate is registered as belonging to a FasTrak user, the account is debited only the toll charge, and no penalty is charged. Fastrak toll diagram.jpg
Diagram of FasTrak toll collections system. As the vehicle enters the toll lane, sensors (1) detect the vehicle. The two-antenna configuration (2) reads a transponder (3) mounted on the vehicle's windshield. As the vehicle passes through the exit light curtain (4), it is electronically classified by the treadle (5) based on the number of axles, and the ETC account is charged the proper amount. Feedback is provided to the driver on an electronic sign (6). If the vehicle does not have a transponder, or if a transponder is not detected at the toll plaza, the system classifies it as a violator and cameras (7) take photos of the vehicle and its license plate for processing. If the license plate is registered as belonging to a FasTrak user, the account is debited only the toll charge, and no penalty is charged.

Under California law, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) was given the mandate to develop and maintain an open, statewide ETC specification. This specification is known in the transportation industry as "Title 21" after it was added to Title 21 of the California Code of Regulations . FasTrak uses RFID technology near 915 MHz to read data from a transponder placed in a vehicle (usually mounted by Velcro strips to the windshield) moving at speeds that may exceed 70 mph (112 km/h). The RFID transponder in each vehicle is associated with a prepaid debit account; each time the vehicle passes underneath a toll collection site, the account is debited to pay the toll.

Currently, FasTrak transponders are not compatible with E-ZPass and other ETC systems used in other states because they use a different specification than Title 21. If a vehicle does not have a transponder, or if a transponder is not detected at the toll plaza, a violation enforcement system triggers cameras that capture photos of the vehicle and its license plate for processing. If the license plate is registered as belonging to a FasTrak user, the account is debited only the toll charge, and no penalty is charged. This is a backup in case a transponder fails to read. Otherwise, a toll violation notice is sent to the registered owner of the vehicle. [2] In the case of drivers whose vehicles are company owned or leased, as long as the vehicle license plates are properly listed, the violations will be sent to the registered owner and not the employee driver. It is for this reason that the License Agreement mandates that customers list all vehicles, including motorcycles, motor homes, and trailers of all types on their accounts so that when transponders fail to read the toll can be debited based upon the vehicle's license plate. A license plate may be listed only on one account.

A toll collected based on a license plate is called an Image Toll and can be identified on the customer statement by noticing the license plate number listed instead of the transponder number. If one fails to correctly list license plates on their account, the FasTrak customer will receive toll violation notices as if they were another driver. If a FasTrak customer receives a toll violation notice under these circumstances, they only refer to the reverse side of the Toll Violation notice and complete the section at the bottom of the notice that will add the new vehicle to their account. Conversely, a license plate should be removed from an account after a change in ownership, otherwise resulting in paying for another driver's tolls via the Image Toll process.

Service center operations

Each toll agency in Southern California has their own billing and customer service center. For convenience, all toll facilities in the San Francisco Bay Area instead share the same billing and customer service center. Although anybody with a FasTrak transponder can use it to pay tolls on any California toll facility using the system, people are encouraged to open their accounts with the local agency in charge of the one that they use the most. Each center establishes its own fee and discount structures, and people may be charged a fee if the majority of their FasTrak use occurs elsewhere.

Fees

Each FasTrak account agency has its own monthly minimums / monthly fees (from lowest to highest)

AgencyAreaFee(s)
Bay Area FasTrak San Francisco Bay AreaNone [3]
The Toll Roads of Orange County Orange CountyNone [4]
Metro ExpressLanes Los Angeles County$1 monthly account maintenance fee. [5]
Interstate 15 Express Lanes San Diego County$3.50 minimum monthly toll, plus $1 per transponder. [6]
South Bay Expressway San Diego County$3.50 minimum monthly toll, plus $1 per transponder. [7]
91 Express Lanes Orange and Riverside CountiesAccount dependent, with plans ranging from a $75 one-time fee with no monthly fees, to a $7 minimum monthly toll. [8]
Riverside ExpressRiverside County$40.00 initial prepaid toll deposit, plus $2 monthly account maintenance fee. [9]

Security

FasTrak antennae that pull data used to generate 5-1-1 traffic information Roadside antennae.jpg
FasTrak antennae that pull data used to generate 5-1-1 traffic information

A teardown analysis of the transponder and analysis of its security issues was published at Black Hat 2008. [10] They are updated remotely, and do not use encryption. [11] Furthermore, FasTrak's basic functionality and specifications are listed under Title 21, Division 2, Chapter 16 of the California Code of Regulations , and are thus freely accessible to the general public. [12]

FasTrak units are used to generate 5-1-1 traffic data, using sensors and antennae placed across various freeways. [11]

History

As the first ETC system in North America was installed on the Dallas North Tollway in 1989, many California toll facilities started to express interest in the technology. Because the state's toll roads and bridges are run by different government agencies, there was the possibility that a number of different incompatible ETC systems would be instituted throughout California. Therefore, the California State Legislature passed Senate Bill 1523 in 1990, requiring Caltrans, the state's Department of Transportation, to develop a statewide technical specification which all systems would be required to meet. [1] As a result, California was the first in the nation to require all of its toll bridges and roads to use the same ETC system. [13] This technical specification was later codified in Title 21, Division 2, Chapter 16 of the California Code of Regulations . [12]

When the Foothill Toll Road in Orange County opened in 1993, it became the first California toll facility to use an ETC system. Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA), the local agency in charge of the toll road, named the system "FasTrak". [14] To this day, TCA still holds the trademark to the "FasTrak" name and logo. [15]

When TCA first introduced the FasTrak system, the electronic transponders consisted of a gadget about the size of a Walkman in which a smart card was inserted. [16] However, the smart cards were unpopular with both tollway officials and users because they cost more, offered little advantage, and customers were charged with a $10 annual fee (which has since been discontinued). [17] By the time the 91 Express Lanes opened in 1995, the FasTrak transponders were redesigned to be the size of a coaster that could be mounted by Velcro strips to the windshield. [18]

Three-lane FasTrak site in Orange County FasTrak Orange County.jpg
Three-lane FasTrak site in Orange County

TCA later deployed the FasTrak system to the two other toll roads they administer as soon as they opened: the San Joaquin Hills Toll Road in 1996 and the Eastern Toll Road in 1998. Also in 1998, the system was then deployed on the high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes along Interstate 15 in San Diego.

A view of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge toll plaza in 2008. The center and right toll booths are labeled "Fastrak Only", while the left toll booth accepts cash and Fastrak. Fastrak only (7730815530) (2).jpg
A view of the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge toll plaza in 2008. The center and right toll booths are labeled "Fastrak Only", while the left toll booth accepts cash and Fastrak.

However, the system had to be modified so that it could be used on California's toll bridges. After a test run on the Carquinez Bridge in 1996, it had accuracy problems in dealing with the 18 different toll classifications for different kinds of trucks. [19] After the changes were made and another test run, the Carquinez Bridge became the first California toll bridge to use FasTrak in 1997. However, bureaucratic inaction, technical difficulties, and financial mismanagement delayed the deployment of the system to the other six state-run toll bridges in the San Francisco Bay Area until October 2000. [20] Meanwhile, the Golden Gate Bridge, run by the independent Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, installed their system a few months earlier in July of that year. The FasTrak system was also briefly used on the state-owned San Diego-Coronado Bridge until tolls were discontinued on that structure in 2002. The Bay Area FasTrak Customer Center then opened in 2005, merging the service center for the state's Bay Area bridges with the one that was being operated separately by the Golden Gate Bridge District. [21]

Since then, several other new toll facilities around California have either opened, are under construction, or are in the planning stages. They are all required to accept FasTrak as per the aforementioned state law.

In 2009, San Francisco International Airport began accepting FasTrak in all of its parking garages, including long-term parking. [22] Currently only FasTrak accounts opened from either the Bay Area FasTrak Customer Center or from Transportation Corridor Agencies can be used at the airport. [23]

A "switchable" FasTrak device used by the Metro ExpressLanes project Switchable FasTrak transponder.jpg
A "switchable" FasTrak device used by the Metro ExpressLanes project

When the Metro ExpressLanes opened in Los Angeles in late 2012, it introduced FasTrak transponders with a special switch that indicates the number of occupants (1, 2, or 3 or more) in the vehicle. This enables the open road tolling system to automatically compute the carpool or solo driver toll, [24] as well as allow the California Highway Patrol to visually check to see if there are more or fewer people in the car than indicated on the transponder. [25] For the convenience of their FasTrak customers in the Greater Los Angeles urban area who may also use the Metro ExpressLanes, TCA began offering switchable transponders in 2013, [26] and the 91 Express Lanes followed suit by 2015. [27] With the switchable transponders, the violation rate on the Metro ExpressLanes fell to 10 percent from the 20 to 25 percent cheating rate in toll lanes that do not require transponders for carpoolers, prompting Alameda County officials to include the system on the then-planned I-580 Express Lanes. [28] The Bay Area FasTrak Customer Center then started to offer switchable transponders, under the name "FasTrak Flex", in summer 2015. [29] In other HOT lane facilities, drivers "declare" that they are a carpool (and thus do not have to pay a toll) by covering their FasTrak transponder in a mylar bag. [29]

There has been a push to strictly use open road tolling, accepting only payments via a FasTrak transponder, a toll-by-plate account, or one-time payments via online or by phone instead of cash. All of California's HOT lanes only use open road tolling. The Golden Gate Bridge began requiring electronic payments for all tolls in March 2013, [30] and all the Orange County toll roads run by TCA likewise did the same in May 2014. [31] A plan to also eliminate toll takers on all seven of the state-owned bridges was approved in 2019. [32] On March 20, 2020, at midnight, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all-electronic tolling was temporarily placed in effect for those seven state-owned toll bridges, and as of December 10, 2020, all of them are now permanently cashless. [33] The only toll facility that still accepts cash is the South Bay Expressway in San Diego County, but it uses unstaffed toll booths with cash machines that require exact change. [34]

Under MAP-21, passed by the Federal government in 2012, all ETC facilities in the United States must reach some form of interoperability by October 1, 2016. In response, the California State Legislature passed Assembly Bill 493 in 2013, authorizing Caltrans and the state's various toll agencies to help develop compatible systems. [35] However, the deadline, which had neither penalty nor funding attached, was not met. California regulators later approved a phase-in of transponder technology using the ISO/IEC 18000-63 (6C) standard, released in 2004, which began in 2018 and is expected to end in 2024. This would allow compatibility with systems used in nearby states of Washington, Colorado, and Utah; and also Kentucky, Indiana, Georgia, North Carolina, and Louisiana, plus NationalPass. [36]

In 2019, TCA introduced a sticker transponder to replace the former plastic transponder. [37] [38] [39] The sticker transponder is similar to the eGo Plus toll sticker introduced by TxTag in 2005, SunPass Mini toll sticker introduced by SunPass in 2008, and the sticker tag introduced by MnPASS in 2015.

Toll facilities using FasTrak

Current

HOV 2+ indicates that carpools require two or more persons.
HOV 3+ indicates that carpools require three or more persons.
indicates that two-person carpools are tolled differently than those with three or more.

NameHighway(s)LocationFromToDirection tolled HOV Account agencySource
Toll bridges
Antioch Bridge California 160.svg SR 160 San Joaquin River Antioch Sacramento County Northbound onlyHOV 3+Bay Area FasTrak [40]
Benicia–Martinez Bridge I-680 (1961).svg I-680 Carquinez Strait Martinez Benicia [41]
Carquinez Bridge I-80 (1961).svg I-80 Carquinez Strait Crockett Vallejo Eastbound only [42]
Dumbarton Bridge California 84.svg SR 84 San Francisco Bay Fremont Menlo Park Westbound onlyHOV 2+ [43]
Golden Gate Bridge US 101 (1961 cutout).svgCalifornia 1.svg US 101  / SR 1 Golden Gate Marin County San Francisco Southbound onlyHOV 3+ [44]
Richmond–San Rafael Bridge I-580 (1961).svg I-580 San Francisco Bay Richmond San Rafael Westbound only [45]
San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge I-80 (1961).svg I-80 Oakland San Francisco [46]
San Mateo–Hayward Bridge California 92.svg SR 92 Hayward Foster City HOV 2+ [47]
Toll roads
Eastern Toll Road California 241.svgCalifornia 261.svgCalifornia 133.svg SR 241  / SR 261  / SR 133 Orange County Irvine California 91.svg SR 91 in Anaheim/Yorba Linda All directionsNoneThe Toll Roads of Orange County [48]
Foothill Toll Road California 241.svg SR 241 Oso Parkway near Rancho Santa Margarita California 133.svg SR 133 near Irvine Both directions
San Joaquin Hills Toll Road California 73.svg SR 73 I-5 (1961).svg I-5 in Mission Viejo Bison Ave in Irvine
South Bay Expressway California 125.svg SR 125 San Diego County California 905.svg SR 905 in Otay Mesa California 54.svg SR 54 near Chula Vista South Bay Expressway [49]
High-occupancy toll lanes
91 Express Lanes California 91.svg SR 91 Orange and Riverside CountiesCalifornia 55.svg SR 55 in Anaheim I-15 (1961).svg I-15 in Corona Both directionsHOV 3+91 Express Lanes [50] [51]
I-15 Express Lanes
(San Diego County)
I-15 (1961).svg I-15 San Diego County California 163.svg SR 163 in San Diego California 78.svg SR 78 in Escondido HOV 2+I-15 Express Lanes [52]
I-15 Riverside Express LanesI-15 (1961).svg I-15 Riverside County Cajalco Road in Corona California 60.svg SR 60 in Jurupa Valley HOV 3+Riverside Express [9]
I-580 Express LanesI-580 (1961).svg I-580 Alameda County Hacienda Dr in Dublin/Pleasanton North Greenville Rd in Livermore HOV 2+Bay Area FasTrak [53]
I-880 Express LanesI-880 (1961).svg I-880 Alameda and Santa Clara CountiesHegenberger Rd in Oakland California 237.svg SR 237 in Milpitas [54]
I-680 Sunol Express LanesI-680 (1961).svg I-680 California 84.svg SR 84 near Sunol HOV 2+ [55]
I-680 Contra Costa County Express LanesI-680 (1961).svg I-680 Contra Costa County Marina Vista Ave in Martinez Alcosta Blvd in San Ramon [56]
SR 237 Express LanesCalifornia 237.svg SR 237 Santa Clara County Mathilda Avenue in Sunnyvale I-880 (1961).svg I-880 in Milpitas [57]
Harbor Transitway I-110 (1961).svg I-110 Los Angeles Harbor Gateway Transit Center Adams BlvdHOV 2+ Metro ExpressLanes [58]
El Monte Busway I-10 (1961).svg I-10 Los Angeles County Alameda St in Los Angeles I-605 (1961).svg I-605 in Baldwin Park

Planned or proposed facilities

The following is a partial list of toll facilities that are either in the planning or proposal stages:

NameHighway(s)LocationFromToDirection tolledScheduled to open
I-5 Express Lanes
(North County Corridor Project)
I-5 (1961).svg I-5 San Diego County La Jolla Village Drive in San Diego Harbor Drive in Oceanside Both directions2021-2035 [59]
US 101 Express Lanes
(Silicon Valley Express Lanes Project & San Mateo County Express Lanes Project)
US 101 (1961 cutout).svg US 101 Santa Clara and San Mateo CountiesDunne Avenue in Morgan Hill I-380 (1961).svg I-380 in San Bruno 2021-2022 (north of SR 237) [60] [61]
2024-2035 (south of SR 237)
SR 85 Express Lanes
(Silicon Valley Express Lanes Project)
California 85.svg SR 85 Santa Clara County US 101 (1961 cutout).svg US 101 in San Jose US 101 (1961 cutout).svg US 101 in Mountain View 2021-2022 (north of SR 82/SR 237) [60]
I-405 Express Lanes
(San Diego Freeway Improvement Project)
I-405 (1961).svg I-405 Orange County California 73.svg SR 73 in Costa Mesa I-605 (1961).svg I-605 in Seal Beach Both directions2023 [62]
I-80 Express LanesI-80 (1961).svg I-80 Solano County Red Top Road in Fairfield I-505 (1961).svg I-505 in Vacaville 2021-2026 [63]
I-10 Express Lanes Phase 1
(San Bernardino Express Lanes Project)
I-10 (1961).svg I-10 San Bernardino County I-10 (1961).svg I-10 in Montclair I-10 (1961).svg I-10 in Ontario 2023 [64]
I-105 Express LanesI-105 (1961).svg I-105 Los Angeles County I-405 (1961).svg I-405 in Los Angeles Studebaker Rd in Norwalk 2025 [65]
I-405 Express Lanes
(Sepulveda Pass Express Lanes Project)
I-405 (1961).svg I-405 Los Angeles County US 101 (1961 cutout).svg US 101 in Los Angeles I-10 (1961).svg I-10 in Los Angeles 2028 [66]
East Otay Mesa Port of Entry FreewayCalifornia 11.svg SR 11 San Diego County California 125.svgCalifornia 905.svg SR 125  / SR 905 Otay Mesa East Port of Entry Unknown, pending at least the completion of the proposed Otay Mesa East Port of Entry. [67]
Foothill-South California 241.svg SR 241 Orange and San Diego countiesI-5 (1961).svg I-5 near San Onofre State Beach Oso Parkway near Rancho Santa Margarita Unknown. The project has been opposed by conservationists and environmental groups. [68]

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References

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  5. "FAQ". Metro ExpressLanes. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority . Retrieved February 26, 2019.
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  7. "FAQ". South Bay Expressway . Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  8. "Getting Started". The 91 Express Lanes. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
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FasTrak account agencies

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