In the 1990s, a task force was formed among executives of seven regional transportation agencies in the New York–New Jersey area.11 The mission of the task force was to investigate the feasibility and desirability of adopting electronic toll collection (ETC) for the interregional roadways of the area. Electronic toll collection is accomplished by providing commuters with small transceivers (tags) that emit a tuned radio signal. Receivers placed at tollbooths are able to receive the radio signal and identify the commuter associated with the particular signal. Commuters establish ETC accounts that are debited for each use of a toll road or facility, thus eliminating the need for the commuter to pay by cash or token. Because the radio signal can be read from a car in motion, ETC can reduce traffic jams at toll plazas by allowing tag holders to pass through at moderate speeds
At the time the New York and New Jersey agencies were studying the service, electronic toll collection was already being used successfully in Texas and Louisiana. Even though several of the agencies had individually considered implementing ETC, they recognized that independent adoption would fall far short of the potential benefits achievable with an integrated interregional system.
The task force was most interested in identifying the ideal configuration of service attributes for each agency’s commuters and determining how similar or different these configurations might be across agencies. The task force identified a lengthy list of attributes that was ultimately culled to six questions:
• How many accounts are necessary and what statements will be received?
• How and where does one pay for E-ZPass?
• What lanes are available for use and how they are controlled?
• Is the tag transferable to other vehicles?
• What is the price of the tag and possible service charge?
• What are other possible uses for the E-ZPass tag (airport parking, gasoline purchases, and so forth)?
From a researcher’s perspective, it also seemed important to assess commuter demand for the service. However, the task force was not convinced that it needed a projection of demand, because it was committed to implementing ETC regardless of initial commuter acceptance. The task force considered its primary role to be investigating commuters’ preferences for how the service should be configured ideally.
1. Evaluate the problem-definition process. Has the problem been defined adequately so that a relevant decision statement can be written?
2. What type of research design would you recommend for this project?
3. What research questions might be tested?
4. What might a dummy table include in this research proposal?