The team at Tollsmart was honored recently by being invited to participate in a process to review innovative technologies for the upcoming congestion pricing program in New York City. Congestion pricing is a way of charging tolls for vehicles that enter certain parts of a metropolitan area and is slated to be implemented in Manhattan's central business district beginning in December of 2020. Tolls will be charged for vehicles that drive south of 60th Street, with certain exceptions such as the FDR Drive and West Side Highway.
Although similar congestion-based tolls have been implemented in several cities across the globe, this is a seminal event in the US tolling industry as New York will be the first city in North America to utilize this complex type of tolling, and many other cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington DC are watching closely and may soon follow NYC's lead.
Given the short window of time for rolling out this new method of tolling and the space limitations of NYC streets, the agency responsible for implementing the program (the MTA) has begun exploring new technology that can be applied quickly without requiring the installation of a great deal of physical infrastructure. As part of this evaluation they have invited a handful of innovative technology firms in the tolling industry - including Tollsmart - to create proof-of-concepts and prototypes and submit them to the MTA for evaluation via a process known as an RFI (Request for Information).
We wasted no time as our talented technology team got to work and quickly created a prototype built on our innovative Toll Tracker™ technology which utilizes GPS signals to track when users pass through tolls and applies the appropriate fees. The use of GPS as a tolling technology is getting increased attention given that over 80% of adults in the US now carry GPS-enabled smartphones and a growing percentage of new automobiles have GPS installed as part of their embedded navigation systems. In fact in a recent article the co-founder and former CEO of Zipcar Robin Chase argues that GPS is the 'technology that could transform congestion pricing'.
Whether GPS is embraced by the MTA as part of the platform for NYC congestion pricing is yet to be determined, however the possibilities are exciting and we're excited to be among the companies the MTA has reached out to in their evaluation. Meanwhile if you are in the New York City area or will be traveling there you can test out the prototype we built for the MTA as we've made it publicly available in our free Toll Tracker™ app for iOS in the App Store. Simply download the app and drive south of 60th Street in Manhattan and it should indicate when you have entered into the (proposed) congestion zone, and if you give it a try let us know what you think by dropping us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The team at Tollsmart is excited to announce that truck-specific routing is now available as an option on the Tollsmart mobile apps and through the Tollsmart API services. Truck routing takes into consideration the dimensions of the vehicle to limit routing options to those roads where the vehicle is legally permitted to operate, or where other obstacles such as low bridge clearances may apply.
To enable truck routing in the Tollsmart mobile apps you first need to be a subscriber to the truck version of the service and have your vehicle stored in the app. Then go into the Options menu and select Routing Provider and choose the Super-fast routing option (truck routing is now the default routing service under this option). Below are screenshots which illustrate these steps.
The team at Tollsmart is excited to announce that current prices for the I-66 and I-64 Express Lanes in Virginia have been added to the Tollsmart apps. Although these lanes have been in the Tollsmart apps since they opened last year, they displayed only the minimum and maximum prices. Now that VDOT has made current pricing feeds available to developers we've integrated them into the Tollsmart apps so you can quickly see the current cost to take the Express Lanes.
For drivers unfamiliar with Express Lanes, these are lanes previously reserved for HOV traffic that can now be used by solo drivers for a fee, which can change as often as every 5 minutes based on traffic (also referred to as Dynamic pricing). There are now over 30 of these systems (which are also referred to as HOT Lanes or Managed Lanes) across the US with many more planned, and all are included in the Tollsmart platform (click here to learn more about Express Lanes on Tollsmart).
On the cusp of Memorial Day weekend, one of the busiest driving weekends of the year, the team at Tollsmart is delighted to launch a brand new self-service Developer Console for third party app developers to easily sign up for an account and access the Tollsmart API Services.
We launched the Tollsmart API services over a year ago and have made numerous enhancements based on customer feedback, and are now excited to provide API customers with this enhanced service which includes many frequently requested features such as;
You can learn more about the Tollsmart API Services here, and if you're a developer you can go directly to the Developer Console to register for a FREE trial account and begin testing the powerful Tollsmart API Services today!
Tollsmart has always been an innovator, beginning with the launch of the first toll calculator to work across all tolling facilities in the US and Canada in April 2015. We soon followed by adding support for commercial vehicles and trucks, an innovative toll tracking service and then support for dynamically-priced Express Lanes.
We're now excited to add another first to the list, full support of all toll facilities in Mexico! This means you can plan a trip from Quebec City in Canada all the way down to Acapulco, Mexico and see the toll cost for the entire trip. This is an important addition as tolls are prevalent in Mexico and the costs can be quite high, often higher than in the US and Canada which means our alternative routes feature can help save a bundle of pesos. That's right, pricing is displayed in Mexican pesos, but don't be too alarmed at seeing prices in the thousands as the current rate of exchange a Mexican peso equates to about a nickel in US currency ($1 MX = $.053 US).
Similar to the other geographies we cover, support is provided for all vehicle sizes including commercial trucks and there is a map view as well as a list view option that provides a detailed breakdown of all the tolls you'll encounter on your trip, and these can easily be emailed as a CSV file for reporting or expense purposes.
This new update also informs travelers of the method of payment accepted at each tolling facility using colored pins to quickly identify facilities that only accept cash (red pins), and includes discounts for electronic payments for using transponder accounts unique to Mexican toll facilities. These transponder options have now been added to the Tollsmart menu allowing users to select their transponder account to determine which toll facilities accept them.
Earlier this spring the team at Tollsmart was delighted to be invited to present at a TechBUZZ event in Washington DC alongside other exciting and fast growing startups in the mid-Atlantic region. The event, which was put on and run flawlessly by MAVA (Mid-Atlantic Venture Association), began with a demo area where attendees got to interact first hand with the startup members and try out their products, followed by visionary keynote speaker Alec Ross.
After that came two rounds of startup presentations delivered at a blistering pace, with each presenter given four minutes to present up to ten slides. We used the opportunity to educate the investor community on our product, the size of the market and our traction, including announcing our new partnership with Bestpass,
We had a great time and thank Kimberly, Julie and the whole TechBUZZ crew who helped make it a first-class event, and strongly recommend it to other startups seeking to raise capital or simply get their name out in the mid-Atlantic region.
(In photo on left Tollsmart Cofounder and CTO Leo Iogansen speaks with a TechBUZZ attendee while company advisor Jeff Wolff looks on)
March 30, 2017
Today we're excited to announce that Tollsmart has partnered with Bestpass, Inc. to provide access to our industry-leading web toll calculator to over a quarter of a million truckers.
(View the Bestpass press release)
The Tollsmart Toll Calculator calculates toll costs across any routes in the US and Canada and works just like Google Maps, providing up to two alternate routes to make it easy to quickly find the optimal route. The service also displays detailed toll information, including the transponders and methods of payment accepted at each tolling facility along the route.
A few short months ago we announced that we added support for four Express Lanes in the Tollsmart apps (two in the DC area and two in Seattle) with the goal of rolling out all HOT/Express Lanes in the US. Today we're thrilled to announce we've achieved that goal and that Tollsmart now supports every Express Lane in the US. This means that Tollsmart will alert you to any Express Lanes along your route so you know you'll have an option for avoiding traffic when traveling through metro areas. No other mapping service provides this type of visibility into tolling information. Tollsmart is maps like you've never seen before.
Real Time Pricing for Seattle's I-405 Express Toll Lanes
Equally exciting is that Tollsmart now displays real-time toll rates for the 405 Express Toll Lanes that bypass Seattle from Belleview to Lynnwood, WA. This means that commuters can view the current prices for taking these lanes before hopping in their cars to head to work, thereby making more informed decisions. The pricing feeds are made available by WSDOT (Washington State Department of Transportation) the agency that operates these lanes, and they provided the following comments on why they're making this information publicly available:
We know how important real-time information is to people and want to help drivers make informed choices about their route options. That's why we decided to make I405 express toll lane rates publicly available as a live, open-source data stream. We're happy to see apps using this data and hope that it will give drivers a more predictable trip so that they can take more control over their commute.
We applaud WSDOT's transparency and efforts to educate drivers on how tolling on these new lanes work and encourage other state agencies to take similar steps to make this information broadly available to the traveling public.
Recently a number of truckers have been apprehended for toll violations amounting to thousands of dollars in unpaid tolls. Though this seems unbelievable to the average car driver, truckers are very aware of how expensive tolls are and how quickly toll costs for trucks exceed a thousand dollars, even in a single round trip journey. Using our new Toll Calculator for Trucks desktop application we identified the three most expensive toll routes in America. Below are the results assuming a 5-axle truck at 80,000 lbs weight and a minimum trip distance of 200 miles each way.
It's that time of year again, time to begin pulling together all the receipts from 2016 and combine them with the myriad tax forms that no doubt began arriving in your mailbox a few weeks ago.
In filling out tax returns one of the areas that many people have questions about is their car, and which expenses related to owning and operating it are deductible. This is especially true now that so many people supplement their incomes by driving for ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft.
Because so many people rely on our toll calculator to quickly calculate toll expenses for car trips we wanted to help people better understand these deductions.
So what are the deductible car expenses you can submit on your 2016 tax return? Below are the guidelines provided by the IRS:
You can find the full details regarding the IRS guidelines for deductible car expenses here, but you should always seek out a tax expert or CPA (certified public accountant) with any questions you have regarding any deductible expenses.
Every year millions of travelers head to the Big Apple during the holiday season for holiday shopping, to see a few shows and stroll down the avenues viewing window decorations on their way to view the famous Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. But those travelers who drive into New York from New Jersey will end paying a little extra this year as the tolls on all the NJ/NY bridge and tunnel crossings will increase by $1 on Dec. 6 to $15 for passenger vehicle paying cash. The discounted E-ZPass rate will also increase by $0.75 during peak hours to $12.50.
The increase is part of a multi-year increase that began back in 2011 and which ends this year.
You can learn more about the increases here, including the new rates for trucks, buses and other commercial vehicles, or you can just download the Tollsmart app for Android or iPhone and we'll have you covered. Tollsmart will automatically calculate the cost of tolls across any routes in the US and Canada, and we update our toll prices in real time so you can be sure you're seeing the most current prices before heading off on a holiday road trip.
Wherever you're heading this holiday season the team at Tollsmart wishes everyone a joyous and happy holiday!
Jim & Leo
Tollsmart Announces that Trucks are Supported in Newest Version of the Tollsmart Toll Calculator App for iPhone, Android and Desktop.
To coincide with the 2015 American Trucking Associations conference, Tollsmart, LLC is excited to announce that the latest version of the Tollsmart Toll Calculator app now supports all vehicle sizes, including trucks up to 9 axles. This has been the most requested feature from users of the app since launching the Tollsmart app in April. This new version, which covers all tunnels, bridges and road tolls in the US and Canada, is NOW AVAILABLE for download in iTunes and Google Play and on the web as well.
..and they won't even have to stay at a Holiday Inn Express. That's because for the first time ever they'll have complete visibility into how much tolls will cost for any trips in the US and Canada through the new Tollsmart app for iPhone & Android.
SIMPLIFIES TRAVEL PLANNING: The new Tollsmart app makes it super simple to budget for toll expenses on a road trip by calculating toll costs across all roads, bridges and
tunnels in the US and Canada. No more frustrating hours spent jumping between websites trying to figure out where you'll encounter tolls or which exits to enter or get
off, this app does it all for you in seconds, and even factors in transponder discounts for all tolling groups including E-ZPass, SunPass and FasTrak.
SAVES YOU MONEY: But that's not even the best part. The Tollsmart app also has an innovative Toll Saver feature that notifies you when alternative routes have been found that can save you money. That's right - the Tollsmart app not only calculates tolls for you but automatically notifies you when its found cheaper routes, and in toll-intensive parts of the US, such as the Northeast, Florida and the Chicago region, this can add up to substantial savings.
EDUCATES YOU: Tollsmart works just like your favorite mapping service, but with the added benefit of Toll Vision so you can easily view all the tolls you'll encounter along your route, providing the details of each toll facility such as whether it will accept your transponder, if exact change is required, or if you'll encounter cashless video-tolling booths that will bill you via the mail (and notify you of any related service fees).
BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE: Hey, we realize not everyone has an iPad or an iPhone, and we're working feverishly to create versions of Tollsmart for Android and other mobile platforms, but we're not going to leave anyone in the lurch. Our goal is to make EVERYONE a little toll smarter this summer, and so stay tuned for more exciting news on this front. All we ask in return is that you help us spread the word by sharing it with your friends and family, and in return you'll enjoy some good Toll Karma knowing you helped all of your family and friends become tollsmart this summer!