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Automatic toll card machine tested in Shanghai

IN an effort to decrease the time vehicles take to go through toll stations, the city is trying a self-service toll card distributor. But there are no plans to extend their use in the immediate future.

The automatic machine, first of its kind in the city, at the G1501 expressway in suburban Jiading District, is expected to shorten the time of vehicles passing the toll by 3 to 5 seconds, according to the city urban facility maintenance department.

The machine is equipped with sensors and cameras and is capable of taking vehicle photos and identifying vehicle types.

However, local highway authorities said they will be cautious about spreading the ticket machines to more toll stations.

"In theory the automatic machines are quicker than the manual ones," said a toll station staffer. "But if the drivers are not familiar with the process, they may be stuck at the toll." Drivers sometimes stop their cars too close or too far away from the machines, the Shanghai Evening Post reported.

Some drivers had to step out of their cars to take the cards, leaving other vehicles waiting, the report said.

Traffic officials and expats said the machines are like the ones used at unmanned parking lots. They are widely used in developed countries to smooth out traffic, officials said.

Other provinces are also giving the technology a try. But during the recent eight-day holiday, expressway operators switched to manual operations in the face of large numbers of vehicles, especially smaller ones that didn't have to pay tolls during the holiday.

The city is looking at different ways to make traffic flow better at toll stations.

One is promotion of electric toll collection. Drivers who use electronic tags to pay tolls get a discount on tolls at city stations, a measure to boost the equipment's sales and usage.

Traffic officials say they can reduce expressway snarls by 30 percent this year by persuading more motorists to join electronic toll collection.


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