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Good To Go! — or not: Washington state’s tolling software switchover will take 2 weeks, but why?

The Tacoma Narrows Bridge is seen with Mount Rainier as a backdrop. (VERG Photograph)

When the Washington State Division of Transportation introduced that each the Good To Go freeway toll cost system and its name middle have been going darkish for a two-week refresh, the response from software program and methods engineers was instant: Why does the state take so lengthy for an improve? Why does the outdated system must go darkish whereas it occurs?

And most significantly, why do we’ve to pay tolls whereas the system is down?

Trade consultants contacted by GeekWire had a variety of opinions. Some lauded the financial savings gained from turning off the platform for a short while reasonably than managing the complexity and labor of working parallel, real-time billing methods.

Others questioned why a state with a lot tech expertise typically appears so insufficient at tech.

“Outages of some minutes to a couple hours are extra regular and cheap,” mentioned Invoice Schrier, former CIO Seattle Police Division and former CIO/CTO Metropolis of Seattle. “The Metropolis of Seattle has carried out a number of replacements of its Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle Metropolis Gentle billing methods with out such outages, particularly taking down a name middle.

“It definitely appears odd and strange to me.” 

The questions grew to become extra pointed when the state delayed beginning the method for one more two weeks after initial beta testing of the new system indicated it was not ready for implementation. Moreover, the state is also transferring the Good To Go name middle and 155 staff from Seattle’s U District to Renton.

Because it stands proper now, the state will flip off the Good To Go web site and name middle on July 2 and reopen each with a brand new contractor, ETAN, on July 19. If drivers accrue tolls throughout that point, they may nonetheless must pay them however can’t till the system reopens. The state will forgive late charges related to the momentary shutdown.

Prospects with Good To Go accounts can high them up beforehand. 

We gathered your questions concerning the system changeover and put them to Jennifer Charlesbois, roadway toll methods mission engineer for WSDOT, and Patricia Michaud, customer support operations supervisor for WSDOT. Questions and solutions have been edited for readability and brevity.

Why does it take two weeks with a system totally shut down?

Jennifer Charlesbois: What we noticed was two-week outage could be very common for what different businesses have skilled of their system transitions. So this isn’t atypical for one of these system transition, particularly, tolling back-office methods.

Why is it that this occurs on the identical time that the decision middle is down? Might you not do these two switches at completely different occasions?

Charlesbois: Whereas the (on-line) system is unavailable we didn’t really feel like it could be applicable to have our name middle answering calls and never have the ability to help clients. They might not have entry to buyer accounts or carry out any actions for purchasers. As well as, the elements of the methods that have been changed embrace the telephony methods. That might complicate making an attempt to maintain the decision middle open. I may even add that we’ve carried out our greatest to get this information out to customers

A toll signal on the SR 520 bridge over Lake Washington. (WSDOT 2012 Photograph)

What have been the liabilities within the outdated system?

Charlesbois: Our present system was applied in 2011. We’re occurring 10 years outdated for this method. So it’s reaching end-of-life. We checked out what have been our largest ache factors within the present system. What we’ve heard from clients is that the system could be a bit antiquated and wishes modernization. Our web site positively will profit from all the work that we’ve carried out. We trying to handle some points with our present system like the flexibility to carry out lots of high duties on-line with out having to name our customer support middle.

Are you able to give me an instance?

Charlesbois: Positive. For instance, if a buyer needs to reset their password on-line that now could be carried out on-line. Additionally some main issues, like if a buyer doesn’t have a Good To Go account with us and receives a toll invoice, our new system will permit them to see how a lot cash they’ll save in the event that they open a Good To Go account. (The client then) can carry out that job on-line and obtain reductions on earlier tolls after they open their (new) account. These are actions that beforehand would have required clients to name into the decision middle.

Given the well-documented cybersecurity issues with Employment Safety, what kind of ensures does the brand new contractor (ETAN) provide concerning on-line safety?

Charlesbois: We utterly perceive that cybersecurity is on all people’s minds. That’s on the highest of our minds as nicely. Our highest precedence is the security and safety of our clients’ info. The brand new system in addition to the transition course of will probably be in compliance with all the business’s strictest protocols. We’ve additionally been working with our personal IT groups in addition to the state’s Workplace of Cybersecurity, to make sure that we’re doing every part we are able to to make sure the security and safety of buyer info.

Is the hassle to make the web finish extra environment friendly additionally an effort to de-emphasize the decision middle?

Patricia Michaud: Our hope is that these new instruments will enhance efficiencies and we’ve a name middle with a smaller footprint. Within the short-term what we anticipate is it is going to be very busy as soon as we deliver on the system so we’re anticipating excessive name volumes and longer wait occasions till clients get conversant in the web site, and till the decision middle (staff) get conversant in the brand new system as nicely.

So within the quick time period, the decision middle will stay the identical however in the long run, it is going to be de-emphasized?

Michaud: Sure.

If the system is turned off as it’s scheduled to do on Friday July 2, why ought to folks must pay a toll for 2 weeks till it’s restarted? 

Charlesbois: Primarily, we’d lose two weeks of toll income. (Editor’s be aware: That quantity would roughly be $6 million over 14 days, in keeping with state figures.) That income is legally mandated to go to repay for bonds for the (highways) 520, 99, and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. (Suspending tolls was) not an answer that was legally obtainable to us. I truthfully can’t consider a time once we suspended tolls.  

Editor’s be aware: This story was up to date with feedback from Schrier.