The 407 ETR is the infamous toll highway of Ontariario, built by the NDP (aka National Deficit Party)(aka Nearly Democratic Party)(aka Normally Defeated Party) guvment in the 1990s. ETR stands for Electronic Toll Road. When it was first opened they touted their electronic tolling system which uses a transponder (and if you don't have one of those they take a picture of your license plate and send you a bill.) The system caused quite a few billing problems in the early days, and still does today sometimes. But it's better than it used to be.
Revenue from the highway used to go to the province. But after the Newly Defeated Party gave up the ghost and bowed out in favour of Mike Harass and his Neo-Constipators, the highway was sold to a private consortium in a deal that caused consternation among many citizens because it was so sweet for the consortium. In other words, the 407 ETR is a private highway now. That explains, maybe, in part, why the billing system has improved a little. But there are still problems (you can hear them periodically on talk radio) and the company has a reputation for arrogance and unresponsiveness.
Ontariario's latest guvment, run by Gliberals, has had clashes with the 407 ETR company as complaints have continued to come in and tolls have increased steadily. (This goes to show why public highways, as essential services, ought not to be controlled privately...it makes me think of toll collectors on medieval bridges: Thou shalt not pass! Unless you pass some cash!) But for the past year and a half, the company has been constructing extra lanes on parts of the highway, which has improved traffic flow (and revenue too, one would think.)
Anyway, 407 ETR must have been taking some PR lessons, plus I think they made a deal with the Ontariario guvment, because a couple of weeks ago, with great fanfare they introduced their ETR rewards program.
It's a complicated piece of business. And really not much of a reward. Have a look below:
ETR Rewards is our way of thanking you for choosing to use Highway 407 ETR.Drive more, save more! Four tiers. Transponder kilometres. Assessment every six months. Free weekend kilometres. (Lovely, since most people use the 407 during the week. It's called commuting!) Excuse me while I call my accountant to figure this out for me.
Using 407 ETR is a great way to skip ahead of congestion and get home faster. Now, it will also earn you great rewards!
And, unlike other rewards programs, there is no membership fee or sign-up process.
When You Qualify:
We will contact you by mail when eligible for ETR Rewards. The letter will outline:
- what tier you are in;
- your free monthly kilometres; and
- monthly gas savings using your ETR Rewards Gas Card (included with the letter).
In addition, your monthly 407 ETR bill will highlight your total savings on tolls and remaining free kilometres.
To be eligible for ETR Rewards, you must:
- use a light vehicle transponder;
- have no outstanding balance greater than 35 days; and
- travel at least 400 kilometres per month on 407 ETR during the qualifying six-month period.
There are four tiers in the program, which are based on the average number of transponder kilometres driven on 407 ETR. Each tier offers a set amount of free weekend kilometres and savings on gasoline purchases.
Drive more, save more! Accounts will be assessed every six months to determine if they qualify for the program and if so, for which tier. The Program phases extend from February to July 2007, and August 2007 to January 2008. At the end of each period, customers will be advised of their tier status for the next period of the program.
I do admit that the Gas Rewards is legit -- 3 cents off per litre -- but the number of litres you're eligible for is also determined by how many kilometres you've driven.
OK. It's all good. 407 got good press. HWSRN, who uses the highway regularly got his wish. He always said he wanted the 407 to give the regular customers a bonus. They're the ones paying the shareholders' dividends, after all. He got his notice of bonus. He got his Gas Rewards card. He registered. He signed up. He got 3 cents off. So he was pleased. For a second.
Last week his bill came in the mail. At the top of the bill, it says this:
How can you not be happy? We all get our reward...in the end.