The China Post news staff
The total number of users of freeway electronic toll collection (ETC) system has broken the 1.5 million level as of yesterday and is expected to hit a high of 3.3 million by the end of the year, according to statistics released by the Far Eastern Electronic Toll Collection Co., Ltd. (FETC), the contractor administering the freeway ETC system.
FETC officials said that since drivers around the island were allowed to start on May 15 installing the new eTag devices, instead of on-board units (OBUs), on their vehicles at 10,000 gas stations, car dealers, and convenience stores around the island without paying any additional charge, the number of eTag users has exceeded 310,000 as of yesterday, This and the existing 1.21 million OBU users will add up to 1.52 million users of the freeway ETC system.
The Taiwan Area National Freeway Bureau under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications has decided to allow drivers using eTags or OBUs to access ETC lanes to enjoy a 10 percent discount on toll fees, starting May 23. FETC officials said that drivers will be allowed to store the value of their eTag accounts free of charge at four major chains of convenience stores.
The officials said that in case the balance of their eTag accounts is not sufficient enough to cover toll fees, drivers will be informed via mobile phone text to be sent by the FETC. And the shortfall will be filled immediately after the eTag accounts are replenished.
The freeway decided to launch a trial operation of the eTag system in Keelung last September, with Keelung residents installing eTags on their vehicles allowed to receive a 20 percent discount whenever they drove through the Xizhi and Cidu toll stations between 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm.
The trial operation succeeded in raising the average ETC usage rate from 38 percent to 77 percent, making the bureau decide to allow drivers nationwide to install eTags.