February 1, 2013 By Jessica Meyer Maria
High occupancy express lanes added a few years ago to a busy stretch of Interstate 85 in Atlanta were designed to reduce driver frustration. But a clunky notification process initially had the opposite effect for some motorists.
Using a small vehicle-mounted transponder known as a Peach Pass, Georgia charged drivers a sliding fee for access to the new high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes based on the amount of traffic congestion. Vehicles carrying at least three people could use the HOT lanes for free, but drivers had to notify the state that they met the occupancy requirement by phone or via the Web at least 15 minutes before using the lanes.
Although the notification process worked, it was cumbersome to many drivers who wanted a quicker and easier way to alert the system. State officials knew a mobile app made sense, but creating one through normal channels would be neither fast nor inexpensive.
“We had wanted a smartphone app, but didn’t have one ready in time for the launch,” said Chris Tomlinson, deputy executive director and general counsel for the State Road and Tollway Authority (SRTA) (pictured above). “There was too much work just negotiating with vendors and calling third parties, and we were being quoted anywhere from $30,000 to several hundred thousand dollars for the app development.”
Then one Thursday afternoon, a frustrated driver called customer service because the Peach Pass app he’d downloaded from iTunes wasn’t working properly. “What app?” asked Tomlinson’s team.