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Stuck at a Toll Booth With No Cash Or Transponder? Now There’s an App for That
August 31, 2016

By John Stewart

For drivers passing through the Chicago area, there’s now an app that will handle payment on the 292-mile-long ribbon of toll roads snaking through 12 counties in Northern Illinois. FastToll, from a Las Vegas-based developer called Pragmistic LLC, arrives just ahead of the Labor Day weekend, when the Illinois Tollway, the state agency that manages the roads, expects 7.8 million vehicles to pass through its toll gates.

A screenshot of the FastToll iPhone app.

FastToll works on either Android or iOS devices equipped with GPS capability and allows users to pay their tolls via a credit card within the seven days allowed by the state. Using GPS, the app keeps track of each gate a driver passes through, storing past tolls in a history file.

With the impending holiday weekend, Pragmistic figured long lines of drivers would form to pay cash tolls. An untold number of drivers either don’t have a windshield transponder, known locally as an iPass, to pay electronically or are from out of state. On one stretch of tollway, the state this summer introduced so-called cashless tolling, eliminating altogether the option to pay cash at a toll booth. “It’s the last big travel weekend in the summer, so this is a good time,” says a spokesperson for Pragmistic. “We’ve been in beta, and we’re now ready to officially launch.”

Payment on the app carries with it a so-called processing fee of 99 cents or 10% of the toll, whichever is higher. The app keeps track of days remaining before the seven-day limit is reached. By contrast, the state allows travelers to pay on its Web site within the seven-day limit with no fee.

The app does not store card information. To pay, users must enter information about their car, such as license-plate number and state of registration, as well as credit card details, including card number and security code. Pragmistic says the app passes the information directly to the state.

The toll charge and the processing fee appear as separate transactions on the user’s statement, with PayPal handling the transaction fee on behalf of Pragmistic.

The company is hoping to introduce its app in other parts of the country. "We are currently in talks with other areas so FastToll's coverage will hopefully expand in the near future," Heather Mista, business operations manager for Pragmistic, tells Digtial Transactions News via email. Illinois was the ideal place to launch, she says, because most of its toll roads are under the authority of a single agency, rather than a miscellany of agencies, as is the case in other states. "In some cases, toll roads are managed by smaller government entities (such as counties) which makes developing a common solution that works across a single state (or, in extreme cases, across a single city) difficult," Mista says.

The sheer number of vehicles on Illinois's toll roads also attracted Pragmistic. "The volume of the traffic on these roads made financial sense to develop such a solution," Mista notes.

Early FastToll users appear to be enthusiastic. As of Wednesday morning, the Android version had drawn 96 reviews on Google Play, with 85% rating it either a 5 or a 4. There were 24 ratings on the Apple App Store, not enough to compile an average, according to the site.

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