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Texas toll road operator charts a course to the future with data platform

Learn how a cloud-based platform is helping the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority better access and use its own data.

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (Mobility Authority), an independent government agency that operates toll roads in the city of Austin region, processes around 200 million toll transactions each year. But extracting insights from all these transactions used to be a challenge because it was difficult to get data in a usable format.

“We were paying third parties or consultants to look at our own data,” says Greg Mack, assistant director of IT and toll systems at the Mobility Authority.1 “[The process] should be better than that.”

So the Mobility Authority recently launched a project to repatriate its data. It built a cloud-based data platform that handles both computer and data storage. The Mobility Authority doesn’t hold its own customer accounts, but rather bills agencies that issue transponders. Through APIs, the data platform can tie directly to these third-party account systems for billing to create its own record of transactions.

This direct pipeline into account systems, paired with a centralised data repository, has now enabled the Mobility Authority to do things such as create data dashboards detailing cash flow. This is helping the agency improve the quality of information it presents to the bondholders that fund its capital projects.

“We’re trying to modernise how we present our information to our stakeholders,” Mack says.

But the vision for the data platform goes far beyond data dashboards. Mack and the team built the data platform to be flexible and scalable to accommodate new use cases in the future. For example, the Mobility Authority is looking into how the platform can be used to process payments for all sorts of transactions, not just toll payments. Transponders could be used to pay for parking or food at a drive-through.

The data can also play a role in shaping future road development. The Mobility Authority currently has two projects underway that have utilised this data to help determine where new roads will be built and how much capacity they will have.

Safety is another area where this data will be critical. As more cars come equipped with smart technology, it may be possible for the agency to send safety updates straight to drivers before they encounter a problem. The toll roads already have sensors that detect the speed and volume of traffic. If they detect that people start slowing down and hitting their brakes, it may indicate an accident up ahead. This alert could be sent to drivers who are approaching the area. Some of this same traffic volume data could also be used in conjunction with the city of Austin’s traffic management systems to help it deal with peaks and valleys in the flow of traffic.

Tracie Brown, director of operations at the Mobility Authority, says the data platform is helping the agency look far beyond its present as a toll road operator.2 By architecting the platform for flexibility through a cloud-based platform and leveraging APIs to connect to other data stores, the system can support almost any use case required by emerging business opportunities. This future-focussed flexibility can enable the Mobility Authority to become more than just a toll road operator—a general mobility facilitator.

“It’s allowing us to take our future into our own hands,” Brown says. “Having access to our data is helping us make smart decisions and keep our customers happy.”3

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  1. Interview with Greg Mack, assistant director of IT and toll systems, Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority (CTRMA), July 28, 202

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  2. Interview with Tracie Brown, director of operations, CTRMA, July 28, 2022.

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  3. Ibid.

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Cover image by: Jim Slatton

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