Consistent, sustained discounts would improve the program authors say
SAN FRANCISCO, February 26, 2007 -- A study by San Francisco State University College of Business faculty finds that FasTrak usage on state-owned bridges in the San Francisco Bay Area is 30 percent lower at peak traffic periods than that of other toll bridges in the United States.
Although the authors offer several suggestions for how to better market the FasTrak program, the study suggests that a consistent discount appears to be the largest single factor in leading to successful adoption of electronic toll collection (ETC) programs.
The study, published earlier this month in the winter edition of Transportation Journal, was authored by Sanjit Sengupta, professor of marketing; Ramesh Bollapragada, assistant professor of decision sciences; and MBA graduate Hector Bedolla.
Comparison data collected for the study shows that Golden Gate Bridge and ETC systems in New York, New Jersey and Illinois all experience ETC levels of around 70 percent compared to the 40 percent for the Bay Area bridges. These systems all offer discounts from 11 to 50 percent over cash-based tolls; whereas, the state-owned Bay Area bridges have not offered a consistent FasTrak discount.
Sengupta, a FasTrak user who commutes to the SF State campus from Walnut Creek, acknowledges that the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and Bay Area Transit Authority (BATA), which manage the program, have made some attempts to jumpstart FasTrak adoption. The BATA offered a discount for January after bridge tolls were increased Jan. 1 and is making passes available for sale at Costco and Safeway. However, he believes that it isn't enough.
"Temporary discounts do result in spikes in FasTrak adoption. But only a small section of the population is aware and takes advantage of such promotions. To change the behavior of large numbers of drivers across the entire Bay Area will require sustained application of economic incentives. A permanent discount will help even more people embrace FasTrak," he said.
Sengupta says ongoing discounts could pay for themselves. If FasTrak usage increases, he said, there would be savings from the reduction in toll collectors needed, and the time savings for commuters and reductions in air pollution and fuel consumption outweigh the costs.
Other suggestions to increase adoptions rates include:
The research data for the paper was collected by Bedolla for his MBA thesis. He graduated in May 2006.
by the prestigious Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business,
SF State's College of Business enrolls nearly 4,200
undergraduate and 715 graduate students. Each year the College of Business
awards more business degrees than Stanford, University of California,
Berkeley and University of San Francisco combined. All of its full-time
faculty members hold doctoral degrees, and most have experience with
commercial enterprises and engage in applied business research.
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