Sunday , December 10, 2023

After a Covid Shutdown, a Florida Road Authority Revives Its Visitor Toll Pass Program

Fifteen months after suspending its popular Visitor Toll Pass program due to travel restrictions placed on tourists moving through Orlando International Airport during the Covid pandemic, the Central Florida Expressway Authority on Wednesday rebooted the program.

The Visitor Toll Pass, which debuted in May 2019 and was suspended in March last year, allows roundtrip travelers renting vehicles at Orlando International Airport to acquire a tag embedded with a transponder that enables tolls to be paid electronically.

After downloading the Visitor Toll Pass app to their smart phone, and entering a credit card number, travelers can reserve a hangtag. Tags can be picked up at a vending machine located in the airport’s parking garage that houses the rental-car agencies. Hangtags, which are hung from a vehicle’s rearview mirror, are dispensed after travelers scan a QR code at the vending machine. Currently, one vending machine is dispensing hangtags.

While the app is free, a $10 deposit is loaded to the traveler’s account. The account is debited each time a traveler passes through an electronic tolling station. Any unused funds from the initial deposit are refunded to the consumer’s credit card once the hangtag is returned. If the hangtag is not returned, the traveler is charged $10 in addition to any tolls paid. Hangtags can be returned at a designated drop box in the airport.

Travelers using the app are charged the electronic toll rate, the lowest levied by the Central Florida Expressway Authority. The agency charges higher rates for tolls paid in cash or through its license-plate toll program, in which consumers are billed monthly for toll-road usage.

The toll pass program attracted 27,000 users in its first 11 months.

The Visitor Toll Pass spares travelers from paying fees charged by rental-car companies at the Orlando airport for activation of toll-payment transponders. Travelers using the Visitor Toll Pass can reduce toll-related costs by as much as 80%, the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX) says.

The pass is good for up to 90 days. Tourists can set and change the expiration date during their trip using their mobile app, but they must be sure to decline the rental-car company’s toll program to avoid double billing.

After suspending the program, which attracted more than 27,000 travelers during its initial 11 months of operation, the CFX sought ways to improve it. The mobile app was developed to make it easier and more efficient for travelers to acquire hangtags. In addition, the hangtag vending machine replaced manned kiosks.

“One of the things we found was that the attendants at the kiosks spent most of their time providing directions to travelers about how to get around the airport. It was not a good use of resources,” a CFX spokesperson says. “[The shutdown during Covid] gave us the time to develop new ways to reserve hangtags, monitor toll activity in real time, and manage toll payments via smart phone.”

The program has proven extremely popular with tourists. A user survey revealed more than 99% would recommend the Visitor Toll Pass to other visitors traveling to Orlando.

“There is huge demand for this,” the CFX spokesperson says. “Orlando is a popular tourist destination and consumers are frustrated with the fees they have to pay for rental-car toll programs.”

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