The National Freeway Bureau said yesterday it plans to start increasing the number of electronic toll collection (ETC) lanes at some toll stations on the freeways at the end of this month due to the sharp increase in the system’s users.
At present, freeway users can use manual toll collection lanes, on which drivers can pay the toll with cash or a prepaid ticket. They can also use the ETC lanes, on which the toll is deducted from a prepaid account.
The bureau had originally scheduled to increase the electronic lanes next month, but said it decided to push it up to this month because it noticed that cars have started lining up on those lanes in some of the toll stations.
Last year, the Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co (FETC), the contractor managing the electronic toll system, proposed raising the ETC usage rate by replacing the on-board unit used to pay the toll, which users had to pay for, with free eTags devices.
Statistics from the bureau showed that about 1.8 million car owners use the ETC system. The number of eTag users has exceeded 600,000 since the contractor made the new device available to freeway users on May 15.
The contract between the bureau and FETC stipulates that the bureau will increase the number of electronic toll lanes when the average traffic volume at the ETC gates reaches 1,200 vehicles per hour during peak hours.
The bureau has found that the southbound and northbound lanes at the Sijhih (汐止) and Yangmei (楊梅) toll stations on Freeway No. 1 and Longtan (龍潭) toll station on Freeway No. 3 now have an average traffic volume of between 1,300 and 1,400 vehicles per hour on weekdays. The volume has even reached 1,500 to 1,600 vehicles per hour on holidays.
These three stations are on the priority list for more ETC lanes, the bureau said. Currently, the Taishan toll station in New Taipei City (新北市) on Freeway No. 1 has more electronic collection lanes than any other, with three on both the northbound and southbound lanes of the freeway. It is followed by the toll station in Shulin (樹林), New Taipei City, on Freeway No. 3, which has two ETC lanes. The rest of the toll-collection stations have only one ETC lane on each side of the freeway.