Folks at the Stock Show may not be going hog-wild over TollTags, but they’re not thumbing their snouts at them either.
As the show wraps up its 23-day run Saturday, the North Texas Tollway Authority has won over more than a few new customers.
The authority, based in Plano, has distributed 193 new TollTags at a booth in the Amon G. Carter Jr. Exhibits Hall, spokesman Michael Rey said Friday.
“It is critical for us to get the word out to drivers so they can be aware of how they can use a TollTag to get the lowest possible rate,” Rey said.
It seemed an unlikely match when the tollway authority set up a booth at the Stock Show. After all, much of the opposition to toll roads in Texas comes from rural areas.
But the sales strategy makes sense because of a project known as Chisholm Trail Parkway. It’s a planned toll road extending 28 miles from Interstate 30 near downtown Fort Worth to U.S. 67 in Cleburne. The project, which could open as soon as May, creates a whole new potential customer base for the tollway authority, which usually focuses most of its marketing efforts on the north Dallas area.
Besides Chisholm Trail Parkway, motorists on the west side of the Metroplex will soon be able to use TollTags on managed toll lanes placed on freeways. Those roads include I-30, Loop 820, Texas 121/183 and Interstate 35W.
The tollway authority’s booth in the Amon G. Carter Jr. Exhibits Hall is next to a boot-shine booth. Each day, a pair of attendants said, a steady stream of passers-by has stopped to inquire about the cost of TollTags or to gaze at the wall-size map of Chisholm Trail Parkway.
“We’re probably talking to more than 100 people per day,” said one booth attendant, who asked that his name not be used because he’s not authorized to speak to the media on behalf of the tollway authority. “On Saturday, we opened up about 35 accounts, with more than 60 TollTags.”
On Friday, Bill Newsom of Azle stopped by the booth. Newsom, who already has a TollTag, greeted the representatives politely but also vented a bit of frustration, saying he tried to update his credit card information but couldn’t get through on www.ntta.org.
Overall, Newsom is satisfied with his TollTag experience. TollTags are mounted on windshields, making it possible for drivers to pay tolls electronically rather than waiting for a bill to arrive by mail.
North Texas toll roads did away with human-staffed tollbooths in 2010. Now motorists can pay tolls with a windshield device such as a TollTag, or they can wait for the tollway authority — which uses license plate photography to keep track of vehicles — to mail a bill.
“I have a TollTag, but about the only time I use it is when the grandkids have sports in McKinney or something like that,” Newsom said, smiling.
In all, the authority manages 1.4 million TollTag accounts, with 2.8 million actual TollTags on vehicles. Most accounts include more than one TollTag, because families with multiple cars will pay with a single account.
By Friday afternoon, the tollway authority representatives staffing the booth had made contact with 6,196 customers, including 29 bilingual contacts, Rey said. Those contacts resulted in the opening of 146 new TollTag accounts and the issuing of 193 TollTags.