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Get ready for electronic tolling on the Golden Ears Bridge

Get ready for electronic tolling on the Golden Ears Bridge

We’re currently building the Golden Ears Bridge over the Fraser River, connecting Surrey and Langley to Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows—hurrah!

Golden Ears also features the first electronic tolls in Western Canada, and we’re trying to get the word out about how the system works. I sat down with Mahrokh Arefi, tolling manager for the Golden Ears Bridge project, to talk about the subject. Feel free to add your own questions in the comments below – I’ll get Mahrokh to answer them at a later date.

Bridge tolls will be collected electronically. Can you talk about it a bit?

Of course! Instead of using toll booths, electronic sensors and digital cameras will identify vehicles and charge them accordingly for driving over the bridge. This electronic tolling technology is called QuickPass.

The sensors and cameras will track vehicle types and license plates, as well as detecting whether the vehicle has a QuickPass transponder on board. The QuickPass transponder—a special electronic device available from TransLink in early 2009—allows your vehicle to be easily identified by the sensors. Due to those efficiencies, drivers with transponders will pay the lowest toll to cross the bridge.

You don’t have to have a QuickPass transponder to use the bridge, though. The system will identify you no matter what, and you’ll simply pay slightly higher fees if you don’t have the transponder, as well as if you’re registered with TransLink for the toll system. Those registered with TransLink but with no transponder will pay a slightly higher toll than those with the transponders. Those without a transponder and who are not registered with TransLink will pay the highest tolls.

Here’s a video that helps show how the technology works:

Why is this better than manual tollbooths?

There are much lower capital costs. You don’t have to staff toll booths, or pay cash collection and processing fees. A lot of right-of-way is required to install toll plazas too – you need 10 to 12 lanes to put in a toll plaza. Electronic tolling is also much more efficient, processing 2,000 vehicles an hour per lane. Manual tolling can only do 400-500 vehicles in an hour per lane.

Electronic tolling is really the trend for any new tolling project nowadays. The technology has matured and it’s already being used in many places: the 407 in Toronto, SR91 in California. The M50 in Ireland just converted over from manual tolling to electronic tolling.

So just how much will drivers pay to use the bridge?

What you pay depends on what type of vehicle you drive, whether you’ve registered your billing and vehicle information with TransLink, and whether you have a QuickPass transponder or not.

Here’s a chart explaining the details:

Vehicle Classification Registered vehicle with transponder Registered vehicle without transponder Unregistered vehicle
Cars Cars
most passenger vehicles, vans, sport utility vehicles, pick-up trucks, and taxis
$2.85 $3.45 $4.00
Small Trucks Small Trucks
cars towing a trailer, light duty commercial vehicles with fewer than five axles, school buses, motor homes, cars towing trailers, and intercity buses or coaches
$5.75 $6.30 $6.80
Large Trucks Large Trucks
articulated trucks or tractor trailer combinations
$8.60 $9.15 $9.75
Motorcycles Motorcycles
motorized two-wheel vehicles; does not include electric bicycles
$1.45 $2.00 $2.55

Bicycles, pedestrians, emergency vehicles, TransLink buses, transit support vehicles and project maintenance vehicles are exempt from the toll. As well, our tolling policies are also guided by a tolling bylaw passed by TransLink’s Board in 2005.

What does the transponder look like? How do you get one?

The transponder is a small plastic square, about 3 inches wide, 3.5 inches long, and 0.5 inches tall. The transponder is a small plastic square, about 3 inches wide, 3.5 inches long, and 0.5 inches tall.
The transponder is a small plastic square, about 3 inches wide, 3.5 inches long, and 0.5 inches tall. Click the pictures for larger versions of the images.

The transponder is a little plastic square, and it can be put on your dashboard or windshield.

In early 2009, you can give your billing and vehicle information to TransLink through the website or by phone, and you can then choose to lease a transponder for $1 per month, with a $10 refundable security deposit. The transponder will be mailed out to you afterwards.

You can also get a transponder in person from one of our two Customer Service Centres, which will be set up at north and south sides of the bridge.

So how do you enforce the toll fees if you don’t stop the vehicles?

If vehicles aren’t registered with our system, the digital cameras on the bridge will capture their license plate numbers, and we then ask ICBC for the vehicle information so we can send them a notice. As well, if a vehicle’s toll debts pile up, ICBC will refuse to issue a driver’s license, vehicle license and vehicle insurance to the driver until the tolls are paid.

What about drivers who aren’t from BC? They can’t be tracked through ICBC.

We don’t expect very many drivers from out of town to be using the bridge, as it’s chiefly a connector between Surrey, Langley, Maple Ridge, and Pitt Meadows. That being said, we are pursuing agreements with Alberta and Washington State to find a resolution to this situation.

Thanks Mahrokh!

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So if you’re looking for more information on the project, please feel free to visit TransLink’s Golden Ears Bridge website, or the Golden Ears Bridge construction website. More info on will become available on both sites and the Buzzer blog as we get closer to the opening of the bridge!