North Tarrant Express

The Secret World of Tolling: New Solutions to Keep Traffic Flowing

04 of October of 2023

As Director of Toll Operation Systems, it is my responsibility to make sure drivers are having a safe experience on our roadways and can reach their destination on time.

With more than 200,000 vehicles using our managed lanes in Dallas every day, a great deal of coordinated teamwork and creative problem solving is needed to keep traffic running smoothly. I am proud to help lead the team that makes it all possible.

A career path lined with numbers

Numbers have always fascinated me, which is why I decided to move from my hometown of Mumbai, in northwest India, to Chennai, in southeast India, to earn my degree in mathematics.

I started my career here in the United States as the quality assurance analyst for a toll company. This experience gave me the opportunity to work on a variety of projects in different cities around the country.

Eventually, I decided to set down roots in Texas, where I began working for Cintra as a business analyst. Cintra, Ferrovial’s toll road division, is one of the leading developers and operators of transport infrastructure concessions. It was a very exciting time at the company because the North Tarrant Express project was going live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

With this visionary project, we were able to ease traffic on one of the nation’s most congested corridors by adding managed lanes with dynamic toll pricing. I was involved in all the functional testing we did in the gantries (the overhead structures on roadways used to identify license plates and manage tolling).

From there, I transitioned into management roles, first as Senior Toll Operations Manager and now as Director of Toll Operation Systems. These opportunities have given me more responsibilities and the wonderful job of managing a diverse team and helping everyone work together.

I’m very analytical. When my team comes to me to report a problem and ask what we should do, I like to dig into the details with them. Together, we provide the right recommendation and solution for the problem.

Managed lanes: an innovative traffic solution

On roads with managed lanes, drivers can decide if they want to use free lanes, which are often very congested, or move to managed lanes for a small fee.

Managed lanes use dynamic pricing to ensure that traffic is constantly moving at 50 mph or faster. The price changes every five minutes based on the current traffic conditions: the more traffic there is, the higher the price will be.

Our goal with managed lanes is to provide a reliable driving time that people can count on. Emergency vehicles and people who really want to reach their destination on time can take advantage of this option, and it also helps to relieve traffic for everyone in the free lanes.

We have seen a big change in the traffic conditions around Dallas since the creation of the managed lanes. Now it is easier and faster to commute.

Behind the scenes of tolling

My team monitors and trends 200,000 daily transactions from the three concessions we have on Dallas highways.

Each vehicle that passes through our gantries creates a transaction. When that data comes into our system, we make sure there are no anomalies, and all the data is looking good.

To do this, we have people watching the feeds from the CCTV cameras on the gantries around the clock. This 24/7 real-time monitoring is helpful for many different reasons.

First, it keeps our lanes safe. If anything goes wrong on the roadway, we can identify the problem and quickly alert the roadway maintenance team so they can help. They respond to incidents like flat tires, water, and accidents on the road.

We can also spot problems with our cameras. For example, sometimes the images coming in are too dark, and the system has trouble identifying the license plates automatically. To avoid having to enhance each image manually, we alert the field systems team, and they send someone to fix the camera.

Lastly, from time to time we see drivers trying to hide their license plate or drive around the gantries. They know that there are cameras in the gantries — they even wave at the cameras! — but they do not seem to realize that we are capturing everything. Regardless of the tricks they may try to pull, we are able to identify their license plate and charge them for using the managed lanes.

Whenever an issue arises, our teams work together seamlessly to come up with and implement effective solutions.

Building community and finding fulfillment

Growing up in India, I was taught the value of unity in diversity. People from different cultures bring in different flavors and different ideas, making our team stronger and more effective.

All my colleagues are also my friends. We are like a family, and that sense of family extends to our community as well.

One of the ways we give back is by donating to nonprofit organizations like Kars4Kids. We donate old trucks to this organization, and they auction the vehicles and provide the funds to children who cannot afford their education.

We also sponsor a STEM camp program for kids, which I had the opportunity of participating in. For one of the activities, we helped the kids build bridges using popsicle sticks and glue. We all learned together, and they had so much fun. At the same time, they saw how difficult it is to build a solid structure, and they came away with a new appreciation for people who work in construction.

I love my job, and these types of community service are very important to me. At the end of the day, you need to feel job satisfaction. For me, that’s something I get from making a difference not only to my team, but to my community as well.

When I’m driving on the roads we helped build, I love to see traffic flowing smoothly as people use our managed lanes. We have made a big difference for people on the move, whether they are commuting to work, going out to explore, or enjoying the ride home.

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