Kansas Turnpike rolling out new K-TAGs

The change will require some users to alter how they use the devices

A Lawrence trash truck goes through the K-Tag turnpike toll gate to enter Interstate 70 from North Iowa Street on a Thursday morning in April

Account accounting

The Kansas Turnpike Authority’s 100,440 customers have a total of 214,755 active K-TAG readers. A breakdown of how many are in area counties, and their percentage of the total:

  • Douglas County: 11,741 accounts, or 11.7 percent; 18,744 tags, or 8.7 percent.
  • Shawnee County: 9,183 accounts, or 9.1 percent; 15,093 tags, or 7 percent.
  • Johnson County: 3,915 accounts, or 3.9 percent; 7,399 tags, or 3.4 percent.
  • Wyandotte County: 1,698 accounts, or 1.7 percent; 4,368 tags, or 2 percent.
  • Jefferson County: 1,011 accounts, or 1 percent; 1,896 tags, or 0.9 percent.
  • Leavenworth County: 755 accounts, or 0.8 percent; 1,273 tags, or 0.6 percent.

The Kansas Turnpike Authority is recalling some of its oldest and least-functional K-TAG readers, swapping the plastic cartridges with smaller, thinner and more efficient stickers.

About 2,000 K-TAG customers are having their readers recalled, the latest move to upgrade equipment in a system that started rolling on the turnpike in 1995.

K-TAG allows drivers to pass through toll booths without stopping, and to pay either on a monthly basis or ahead of time in exchange for a discount.

The recall is giving affected customers a new “K-TAG sticker” to replace their plastic-encased readers, ones that either have malfunctioned in the past or are likely to do so soon, said Lisa Callahan, a turnpike spokeswoman.

“Sometimes the customer knows that their tag is not functioning at 100 percent,” Callahan said. “They may have gone through a plaza when the gate didn’t go up. Or they don’t know. But we know, so we just replace them. …

“We replace them before they die, so you don’t get stranded in a lane.”

Aside from their physical appearance — the new stickers are about the size of a credit card, while the old readers are bigger than many wireless phones — the switch for in-vehicle systems will prompt at least a couple operational changes:

• A K-TAG sticker actually must be affixed to the vehicle’s windshield for it to work. Unlike one in a plastic case — which typically works if simply held up near the rear-view mirror while heading through a toll plaza — a K-TAG sticker doesn’t have a battery, and therefore needs a strong connection with the glass to function, Callahan said. “Now you have no choice but to mount it,” she said.

• No more switching sensors between cars. Each vehicle needs its own, dedicated sensor. “They cannot be removed and used again once they’re on,” Callahan said.

Pricing won’t change, or at least not immediately. Currently there are three K-TAG programs:

• A prepay account, whereby customers put money in ahead of time and receive a 10 percent discount on tolls, while paying a $1 monthly fee per sensor.

• A pay-and-you go account, under which customers are billed monthly for their tolls. The fee for each sensor is $5 per year.

• A new account, started late last year, that allows customers to buy a sensor for $12.50, and then pay tolls using a payment card kept on file with the turnpike authority. The sensor may be used for as long as it functions, and therefore is good until a customer buys a new car, decides to switch cars, or even needs to replace a windshield.