Get Rolling with MnPASS
If you’ve ever driven on Interstates 394 or 35W during rush hour, you’ve probably witnessed cars and buses zip down the MnPASS Express Lane while vehicles in adjacent lanes creep along at a snail’s pace. While many motorists on the MnPASS Express Lane are carpooling—the lane is free for buses, motorcycles and vehicles with two or more occupants—you may have noticed some vehicles with only one person. These solo drivers have enrolled in the MnPASS program, which provides access to the MnPASS Express Lane for a fee during peak drive times.
To help you understand MnPASS better, we have reviewed the program and the technology that makes it possible.
What is MnPASS?
The MnPASS Express Lane was created to help manage congestion and reduce travel times on some of the busiest roads—namely Interstates 35W, 35E and 394. The fee for MnPASS solo drivers is based on the volume of traffic in these lanes, and range from 25 cents to $8.
Because MnPASS always posts their fees on overhead signs, members can decide if they want to drive in the express lane or opt to drive in the non-MnPASS lanes during peak driving times. (During non-peak-drive times, these lanes are free and open to all motorists.)
How Does it Work?
Drivers enrolled in MnPASS are required to have a tag on their vehicle, which is used to transfer information between the driver’s vehicle and MnDOT’s central system, called IRIS. This system utilizes readers installed on structures like bridges to record the tag ID and send that information back to MnDOT. The IRIS system reads each tag to determine the length of the trip and then records the associated price for that trip.
There are three different tag options for MnPASS drivers:
- The sticker tag is free and the best option for drivers who typically drive alone and in the same vehicle during rush hour. The sticker attaches to the inside of the windshield, so it cannot be transferred to other vehicles or deactivated when there is more than one person in the vehicle.
- The switchable tag and costs $15 but allows the driver to switch between carpool mode and solo driver mode (plus the tag can be transferred from vehicle to vehicle).
- A license plate tag option is available for vehicles that have metallic tint window film, which prevents MnPASS antennas from reading a sticker or switchable tag.
A MnPASS account can be set up at mnpass.org or the MnPASS Customer Service Center. A MnPASS account is like a debit account—there is an initial minimum prepaid amount of $25 plus the cost of a MnPASS tag, if applicable. The initial minimum prepaid money is used to pay the toll fees and your account will be automatically replenished based on your credit or debit card on file.
AAA members who are new MnPASS customers can use a promo code to receive $20 in free MnPASS toll credits.