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Not to be confused with FasTracks.
FasTrak logo
Mounted FasTrak transponder

FasTrak is the electronic toll collection (ETC) system used in the state of California in the United States. The system is used statewide on all of the toll roads, toll bridges, and high-occupancy toll lanes along the California Freeway and Expressway System.

As with other ETC systems, FasTrak is designed to eliminate the need for cars to stop to pay at toll booths, thus decreasing the traffic congestion traditionally associated with toll roads. Its use of technology to improve transit is in line with the U.S. Department of Transportation's Intelligent Transportation Systems initiative.

Under California's government structure, the state's toll facilities are operated by various agencies and special-purpose districts. Concerned that they would each introduce different, incompatible ETC systems, the California State Legislature passed Senate Bill 1523 in 1990, requiring the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to develop a statewide specification that all these toll agencies were required to meet.[1] Three years later, Transportation Corridor Agencies opened the Foothill Toll Road in Orange County, implementing the statewide ETC system for the first time, and naming it FasTrak. The state continues to delegate the responsibility of selling and maintaining FasTrak accounts to the different toll agencies.

Operations and functionality[edit]

Diagram of FasTrak toll collections system. As the vehicle enters the toll lane, sensors (1) detect the vehicle. The two-antenna configuration (2) reads a transponder (3) mounted on the vehicle's windshield. As the vehicle passes through the exit light curtain (4), it is electronically classified by the treadle (5) based on the number of axles, and the ETC account is charged the proper amount. Feedback is provided to the driver on an electronic sign (6). If the vehicle does not have a transponder, the system classifies it as a violator and cameras (7) take photos of the vehicle and its license plate for processing. If the license plate is registered as belonging to a FasTrak user, the account is debited only the toll charge, and no penalty is charged.

Under California law, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) was given the mandate to develop and maintain an open, statewide ETC specification. This specification is known in the transportation industry as "Title 21" after it was added to Title 21 of the California Code of Regulations. FasTrak uses RFID technology near 915 MHz to read data from a transponder placed in a vehicle (usually mounted by Velcro strips to the windshield) moving at speeds that may exceed 70 mph (112 km/h). The RFID transponder in each vehicle is associated with a prepaid debit account; each time the vehicle passes underneath a toll collection site, the account is debited to pay the toll. Currently, FasTrak transponders are not compatible with E-ZPass and other ETC systems used in other states because they use a different specification than Title 21.

If a vehicle does not have a transponder, or if a transponder is not detected at the Toll Plaza, a Violation Enforcement System triggers cameras that take photos of the vehicle and its license plate for processing.

If the license plate is registered as belonging to a FasTrak user, the account is debited only the toll charge, and no penalty is charged. This is a backup in case a transponder fails to read. Otherwise, a toll violation notice is sent to the registered owner of the vehicle.[2] In the case of drivers whose vehicles are company owned or leased, as long as the vehicle license plates are not properly listed, the violations will be sent to the registered owner and not the employee driver.

It is for this reason that the License Agreement mandates that customers list all vehicles, including motorcycles, motor homes, and trailers of all types on their accounts so that when transponders fail to read the toll can be debited based upon the vehicle's license plate. A license plate may be listed only on one account. A toll collected based on a license plate is called an Image Toll and can be identified on the customer statement by noticing the license plate number listed instead of the transponder number. If one fails to correctly list license plates on their account, the FasTrak customer will receive toll violation notices as if they were another driver. Conversely, a license plate should be removed from an account after a change in ownership. Failure to do so may result in paying for another driver's tolls via the Image Toll process.

Service center operations[edit]

Each toll agency in Southern California has their own billing and customer service center. For convenience, all toll facilities in the San Francisco Bay Area instead share the same billing and customer service center. Although anybody with a FasTrak transponder can use it to pay tolls on any California toll facility using the system, people are encouraged to open their accounts with the local agency in charge of the one that they use the most. Each center establishes its own fee and discount structures, and people may be charged a fee if the majority of their FasTrak use occurs elsewhere.

Security issues[edit]

FasTrak antennae that pull data used to generate 5-1-1 traffic information

A teardown analysis of the transponder and analysis of its security issues was published at Black Hat 2008.[3] They are remotely update-able, and do not use encryption.[4] Furthermore, FasTrak's basic functionality and specifications are listed under Title 21, Division 2, Chapter 16 of the California Code of Regulations, and are thus freely accessible to the general public.[5]

FasTrak units are used to generate 5-1-1 traffic data, using sensors and antennae placed across various freeways. [4]


As the first ETC system in North America was installed on the Dallas North Tollway in 1989, many California toll facilities started to express interest in the technology. Because the state's toll roads and bridges are run by different government agencies, there was the possibility that a number of different incompatible ETC systems would be instituted throughout California. Therefore, the California State Legislature passed Senate Bill 1523 in 1990, requiring Caltrans, the state's Department of Transportation, to develop a state wide technical specification which all systems would be required to meet.[1] As a result, California was the first in the nation to require all of its toll bridges and roads to use the same ETC system.[6] This technical specification was later codified in Title 21, Division 2, Chapter 16 of the California Code of Regulations.[5]

When the Foothill Toll Road in Orange County opened in 1993, it became the first California toll facility to use an ETC system. Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA), the local agency in charge of the toll road, named the system "FasTrak".[7] To this day, TCA still holds the trademark to the "FasTrak" name and logo.[8]

When TCA first introduced the FasTrak system, the electronic transponders consisted of a gadget about the size of a Walkman in which a smart card was inserted.[9] However, the smart cards were unpopular with both tollway officials and users because they cost more, offered little advantage, and customers were charged with a $10 annual fee (which has since been discontinued).[10] By the time the 91 Express Lanes opened in 1995, the FasTrak transponders were redesigned to be the size of a coaster that could be mounted by Velcro strips to the windshield.[11]

Three-lane FasTrak site in Orange County

TCA later deployed the FasTrak system to the two other toll roads they administer as soon as they opened: the San Joaquin Hills Toll Road in 1996 and the Eastern Toll Road in 1998. Also in 1998, the system was then deployed on the high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes along Interstate 15 in San Diego.

However, the system had to be modified so that it could be used on California's toll bridges. After a test run on the Carquinez Bridge in 1996, it had accuracy problems in dealing with the 18 different toll classifications for different kinds of trucks.[12] After the changes were made and another test run, the Carquinez Bridge became the first California toll bridge to use FasTrak in 1997. However, bureaucratic inaction, technical troubles, and financial mismanagement delayed the deployment of the system to the other six state-run toll bridges in the San Francisco Bay Area until October 2000.[13] Meanwhile, the Golden Gate Bridge, run by the independent Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, installed their system a few months earlier in July of that year. The FasTrak system was also briefly used on the state-owned San Diego-Coronado Bridge until tolls were discontinued on that structure in 2002.

Since then, several other new toll facilities around California have either opened, are under construction, or are in the planning stages. They are all required to accept FasTrak as per the aforementioned state law.

In 2009, San Francisco International Airport began accepting FasTrak in all of its parking garages, including long-term parking.[14] Currently only FasTrak accounts opened from either the Bay Area FasTrak Customer Center or from Transportation Corridor Agencies can be used at the airport.[15]

A "switchable" FasTrak device used by the Metro ExpressLanes project

When the Metro ExpressLanes opened in Los Angeles in late 2012, it introduced FasTrak transponders with a special switch that indicates the number of occupants (1, 2, or 3 or more) in the vehicle. This enables the open road tolling system to automatically compute the carpool or solo driver toll.[16] Currently in other HOT lane facilities, drivers "declare" that they are a carpool (and thus do not have to pay a toll) by covering their FasTrak transponder in a mylar bag.[17]

There has been a recent push to strictly use open road tolling only. The Golden Gate Bridge began only accepting electronic payments in March 2013,[18] and all the Orange County toll roads run by TCA likewise did the same in May 2014.[19] For those who do not carry a FasTrak transponder, both the Golden Gate Bridge District and TCA offer toll-by-plate accounts, and accept one-time payments via online or by phone. All of California's HOT lanes only use open road tolling; cash is not accepted.

Under MAP-21, passed by the Federal government in 2012, all ETC facilities in the United States must reach some form of interoperability by October 1, 2016. In response, the California State Legislature passed Assembly Bill 493 in 2013, authorizing Caltrans and the state's various toll agencies to help develop compatible systems.[20]

Toll facilities using FasTrak[edit]

Toll facilities currently using FasTrak include:

Name Highway(s) Location From To Direction tolled
Toll bridges
Antioch Bridge SR 160 San Joaquin River Antioch Sacramento County Northbound only
Benicia–Martinez Bridge I‑680 Carquinez Strait Martinez Benicia Northbound only
Carquinez Bridge I‑80 Carquinez Strait Crockett Vallejo Eastbound only
Dumbarton Bridge SR 84 San Francisco Bay Fremont Menlo Park Westbound only
Golden Gate Bridge US 101 / SR 1 Golden Gate Marin County San Francisco Southbound only
Richmond – San Rafael Bridge I‑580 San Francisco Bay Richmond San Rafael Westbound only
San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge I‑80 San Francisco Bay Oakland San Francisco Westbound only
San Mateo – Hayward Bridge SR 92 San Francisco Bay Hayward Foster City Westbound only
Toll roads
Eastern Toll Road SR 241 / SR 261 / SR 133 Orange County Irvine SR 91 in Anaheim/Yorba Linda All directions
Foothill Toll Road SR 241 Orange County Oso Parkway near Rancho Santa Margarita SR 133 near Irvine Both directions
San Joaquin Hills Toll Road SR 73 Orange County I‑5 in Mission Viejo Bison Ave in Irvine Both directions
South Bay Expressway SR 125 San Diego County SR 905 in Otay Mesa SR 54 near Chula Vista Both directions
High-occupancy toll lanes
91 Express Lanes SR 91 Orange County SR 55 in Anaheim Riverside County line Both directions
I-15 Express Lanes I‑15 San Diego County SR 163 in San Diego SR 78 in Escondido Both directions
I-680 Express Lanes I‑680 Alameda and Santa Clara Counties SR 84 near Sunol SR 237 in Milpitas Southbound only
SR 237 Express Lanes SR 237 / I‑880 Santa Clara County North First St along SR 237 in San Jose Dixon Landing Rd along I-880 in Milpitas Both directions
Metro ExpressLanes
(Harbor Transitway segment)
I‑110 Los Angeles Harbor Gateway Transit Center Adams Blvd Both directions[21]
Metro ExpressLanes
(El Monte Busway segment)
I‑10 Los Angeles County Alameda St in Los Angeles I‑605 in Baldwin Park Both directions[21]

Facilities under construction[edit]

The following are toll facilities that are currently under construction:

Name Highway(s) Location From To Direction tolled Scheduled to open
I-580 Express Lanes I‑580 Alameda County Hacienda Dr in Dublin/Pleasanton North Greenville Rd in Livermore Both directions 2015[22]
SR 91 Project (Riverside County) SR 91 / I‑15 Riverside County Orange County line along SR 91 Ontario Avenue along I-15 in Corona Both directions 2017[23]

Planned or proposed facilities[edit]

The following is a partial list of toll facilities that are either in the planning or proposal stages:

Name Highway(s) Location From To Direction tolled Scheduled to open
I-5 Express Lanes
(North County Corridor Project)
I‑5 San Diego County La Jolla Village Drive in San Diego Harbor Drive in Oceanside Both directions 2018[24]
US 101 Express Lanes
(Silicon Valley Express Lanes Project)
US 101 Santa Clara County Dunne Avenue in Morgan Hill San Mateo County line Both directions 2018[25]
SR 85 Express Lanes
(Silicon Valley Express Lanes Project)
SR 85 Santa Clara County SR 87 in San Jose I‑280 in Cupertino Both directions 2018[25]
405 Express Lanes
(San Diego Freeway Improvement Project)
I‑405 Orange County SR 73 in Costa Mesa I‑605 in Seal Beach Both directions 2022[26]


  1. ^ a b Halloran, James V. (1992). "Standardizing Electronic Toll Collection". Retrieved 2006-04-27. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ a b "Title 21 Support". California Dept. of Transportation. Retrieved December 29, 2013. 
  6. ^ Hallissy, Erin (February 20, 1996). "Bay Area Bridges to Offer Electronic Tolls". San Francisco Chronicle. p. A1. Retrieved 2006-04-27. 
  7. ^ Downey, Cheryl (October 4, 1993). "Tollway officials must sell the public on new product". Orange County Register. p. A4. 
  8. ^ "Pilot program puts TCA FasTrak on Costco shelves". Retrieved 2006-04-27. 
  9. ^ Downey, Cheryl (August 13, 1993). "Toll Tech: 4 Ways To Pay: Transportation: Video enforcement will capture license plates when drivers don't pay on Foothill toll road.". Orange County Register. p. B4. 
  10. ^ Downey, Cheryl (July 29, 1994). "County tollway officials are having second thoughts about expensive toll-paying 'smart cards.'". Orange County Register. p. C4. 
  11. ^ Pund, Ernest E. (December 24, 1995). "Highway 91 about to take its first toll". The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA). p. A1. 
  12. ^ Nolte, Carl (September 23, 1996). "Automatic Tollbooth Technology Not Yet Ready for Prime Time". San Francisco Chronicle. p. A15. Retrieved 2006-04-27. 
  13. ^ Cabanatuan, Michael (October 5, 2000). "All Bay Toll Spans Finally Going FasTrak". San Francisco Chronicle. p. A1. Retrieved 2006-04-27. 
  14. ^ "FasTrak Users are "Good to Go" at SFO" (Press release). San Francisco International Airport. 2009-05-15. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  15. ^ "FasTrak FAQs". Bay Area FasTrak Customer Service Center. Retrieved 2014-04-23. Bay Area FasTrak customers and The Toll Roads customers are both eligible to use FasTrak at SFO ... Customers of Orange County's 91 Express Lanes, and San Diego's I-15 and South Bay Expressway, currently are not eligible to pay for parking at SFO 
  16. ^ "Metro ExpressLanes FAQ". Retrieved 2012-07-06. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ "All Electronic Tolling at the Golden Gate Bridge". Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. Retrieved February 10, 2013. 
  19. ^ "All Electronic Tolling". Transportation Corridor Agencies. Retrieved February 10, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Text of AB 493 2013". California Legislative Information. Retrieved 2013-12-29. 
  21. ^ a b "Metro ExpressLanes". Retrieved 2012-03-31. 
  22. ^ "Alameda County ExpressLanes". Retrieved 2013-12-29. 
  23. ^ "SR 91 Project". Riverside County Transportation Commission. Retrieved 2015-06-18. 
  24. ^ "I-5 Express Lanes Project". TransNet. Retrieved 2015-06-17. 
  25. ^ a b "State Route 85 and US 101 Express Lanes Projects". Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. Retrieved 2015-06-17. 
  26. ^ "San Diego Freeway (I-405) Improvement Project". Orange County Transportation Authority. Retrieved 2015-06-17. 

External links[edit]

FasTrak account agencies
Other links