The Illinois Tollway is launching a mobile website Monday designed for I-PASS users, a move that officials say should help reduce account-related violations and administrative costs.
The tollway isn't the first toll road system in the United States to provide mobile access to customers who pay their tolls automatically using in-vehicle transponders.
But officials say the I-PASS mobile website is expected to provide a new resource to help reduce account mismanagement by customers.
Failing to keep accounts up to date is the leading cause of toll violations among I-PASS users, officials said. They said one of the most common issues is customers neglecting to add new vehicles to their accounts.
The tollway issued about 1.3 million first-violation notices in the past 12 months, records show, and more than 40 percent of the notices went to I-PASS customers — nearly all of whom presumed their tolls were being paid seamlessly, until they received a surprise letter and penalty in the mail from the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority.
"If an I-PASS customer is getting a violation, it usually is due to an account issue or the account was mismanaged," tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said.
Reasons for account problems include expired credit cards and outdated vehicle license plate information linked to the account, officials said, adding that it is the customers' responsibility to keep their I-PASS accounts in good standing. Account balances and other details can be viewed and updated at http://www.illinoistollway.com under the "Manage Account" link.
The growth of smartphone and tablet use has helped widen access to I-PASS accounts, officials said. But until now it hasn't been easy to use the tollway website from devices other than traditional personal computers or laptops, because the content on the regular website is not scaled for small-screen formats.
The mobile website can be accessed at http://www.illinoistollway.com and by clicking on the "Mobile I-PASS Management" icon, officials said.
Smartphone and mobile-device users can save the link to their home screen by downloading the icon, for future access in one click. BlackBerry users can bookmark the link.
After logging in to the secure site, I-PASS customers will be directed to a main navigation page that provides a list of account services.
The mobile website will accommodate all types of mobile devices, including BlackBerry, iPhone and Android, officials said. Offering a mobile website instead of apps optimizes access for all types of devices, they said.
Lafleur said it is clear from tollway customer surveys that most I-PASS users prefer administering their accounts online rather than facing the hassle of phoning the tollway customer service line or making a trip to tollway headquarters in Downers Grove.
"Many people want to interact with us only online and more people are doing it with smartphones," Lafleur said.
Making the process more customer-friendly is a win for the toll authority too, because it will cut down on costs associated with personnel and sending violation notices to I-PASS customers, Lafleur said.
Aside from the notices, the toll authority also routinely mails letters to I-PASS customers to alert them when a credit card on file is soon to expire and to remind them to update the account with new credit card information.
Customers get "the benefit of the doubt" in many of the violation cases stemming from I-PASS account problems, Lafleur said. "But it costs us staff time and resources," she said.
The account services that I-PASS customers will be able to use on the mobile website include viewing account balance, transponder use and payment history, reviewing and updating personal information and credit card details, adding or updating vehicles and license plate information, and activating a new transponder.
The mobile website will not initially accept orders for new transponders or allow I-PASS customers to add funds to their account by using gift or cash debit cards, said tollway spokeswoman Wendy Abrams. Those and additional features will be added later, she said. For now, the active credit card listed on the account will be the only way to replenish account balances, at the pre-set level selected by the customer, she said.
About 86 percent of all toll transactions on the Illinois Tollway system involve I-PASS, officials said. There are more than 3.5 million active I-PASS accounts and more than 4.7 million active transponders.
All tollway drivers can also receive traffic alerts on Twitter for the four individual interstate toll roads on the 286-mile system. Go to Twitter.com and enter "tollway trip" in the search field to follow a particular road.
A reminder: Just please don't use the traffic alerts or the mobile website while driving.
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