27 October 2009

Effective Road Pricing, Again?

Some ardent fans (if they visit KJL still) will recall ape was in Melbourne, Australia sometime earlier this year. One of the things that impress ape was the manner in which toll is collected on their highway. Motorist there need not install an IU. (An IU cost more than $100, although it was free for existing motorist when ERP started here). One only need to log in to the internet and make payment online, prior to the intended journey where toll exists.

What if one in Melbourne suffers from similar situation ape faced previously? Motorist is given a certain days of grace period to pay the toll online or via phone calls. If you missed that deadline, the fine is hefty. (Go here for more information). Forgetful motorist or foreign motorist who are not familiar with the toll will appreciate their system of toll collection.

Ape rented a car on one of the weekends when wifey joined ape in that foreign land. Ape studied the map to avoid the toll but still got lost along the way and suspected he has entered a toll zone. Went online as soon as ape managed to get an internet connection and was directed to a page where ape can make payment. Problem was, the online service could not indicate whether ape actually went through the toll. A 24 hour hotline was available to make enquiries though. Ape made that call. The lady on the other end of line sounded merry and was absolutely helpful and polite, even though it was after 10pm. She got ape's name, the license plate number and did a search in the database. "Nope. Your records did not show up" she replied. Ape, being a kiasu and kiasi Singaporean probed further.

"Does that mean I did not enter a toll zone or the records has not been updated yet?" ape asked.

"It was only this afternoon when you travelled so it could be that it has not been updated yet. Why don't you try calling tomorrow?".

The next day, ape called again. The voice at the other end sounded familiar. Ape told her the problem and immediately she recalled "Oh! You're [Mr Ape] who called last night" Ohhhh, that's customer service! Not only did she remember the call she received, she recalled my name! Ape's response was embarrassing.

"I'm sorry I couldn't recall your name... is it Beth?"

"Bertha. No worries... give me your car number again. I'm sorry I couldn't remember what it was." Customer first... administrative matters took a back seat.

She ran through the database and there it was. Advised me on the toll cost and payment mode. Ape gave her the credit card number and settled the matter. No additional administrative charge.

Why can't we do the same? Ape thought. In the previous post, prior to dinner, ape recalled the pleasant encounter in Melbourne and asked why can't we do the same. After paying my "violation" with administrative charge, ape think again - why can't we do the same?

24 October 2009

Effective Road Pricing?

Ape had a somewhat eventful night. Went to the gym after work to burn some calories, purge the nicotined lungs and cleared some cholesterol blocked arteries. Joined wifey and friends for dinner in town after that. Ape made sure he had his cash card inserted into the In-vehicle Unit (IU) just in case Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) is still in operation.

Ape is a biker who doesn't frequent town or any of the ERP tolls. As far as Ape can recall, it's an average of once a year ever since ERP was introduced. It does not occur to ape that he has to remember every single toll, the precise hours that they will be in operation and the charges. Simply because, the next time ape has to pass through any of these gantries, the rules has probably changed. Nevertheless, ape had his cash card placed in just in case. It was the journey home that caught ape off guard.

Dinner ended close to 10. Ape deliberated on inserting the cash card. Ape knew he had to travel along CTE and the toll in CTE lasts longer than all other ERP gantry. Ape can take the safe way out by inserting the cash card but run the risk of forgetting to retrieve it. IU on a bike is unlike that of a car whereby one can keep the car locked and a passerby cannot take the cash card without breaking the window. Cash card left in the IU of a forgetful biker can be easily and frequently got "picked up" by any passerby and this happened to ape a handful of times. It is also easy for ape to forget taking out his cash card because ape seldom has any need to place it in the IU.

It was 10 pm and ape is heading out of town... should be safe, ape reasoned. Big mistake.

Traffic was heavy and slow moving. "Accident on lane one" was displayed on the EMAS. Better keep the eyes on the road... in case ape became the 2nd accident. Shortly after the accident site where the traffic became smoother, ape looked up and saw "ERP in operation until 10:30pm". Damn. Where's the next turning before the toll booth? NONE! "What time is it now?" Ape thought. Ape dared not steal a glance at his sleeve covered watch. Nevertheless, ape the saw the time... prominently displayed on the ERP gantry. "10:24pm ...." Shit. "...motorcycles $0.25..." as if in mockery. ARRGGH! Went through the gantry. The LED on the IU flashed red merrily and all ape could do was to wait for the letter from LTA. Ape wondered how much he'll be fined.

(The latest comment about ERP ape read about is here).