Don’t like tolls on the 407? Well, boo-hoo


The 407 ETR is the road some people love to hate. The Liberal government of Premier Dalton McGuinty spent years fighting a bitter court battle over 407 tolls. Drivers often grumble about them or even refuse to pay them, though the road is a private enterprise and drivers take it by choice. Exactly why the 407 excites such loathing is something of a mystery. The ETR, or Express Toll Route, is a transportation marvel. When it opened in 1997, it was the world’s first all-electronic, barrier-free toll highway. There are no booths to hold you up. An electronic eye reads your licence plate and bills you later. For regular users with a transponder in the car, billing is automatic.

The road is sleek, well-maintained and often blissfully open, a vivid contrast to the crowded, crumbling government roads all around it. Since a private consortium paid the provincial government $3.1-billion for it a decade ago, the 407 has spent another $1.18-billion on new ramps, interchanges and lane expansions. Despite the tolls, 375,000 drivers travel it every work day. Yet some people still insist on seeing it as a sort of dark conspiracy to fleece the city’s drivers.

Witness the latest fuss over tolls. Dodging them is no better than hopping a subway turnstile. It’s stealing, plain and simple. But it is the 407 that takes the heat. Critics complain about how the 407’s parent company pursues drivers who fail to pay up. Under an agreement with the provincial government, drivers who don’t pay can have their licence-plate renewal denied. The Toronto Star says that “may be the most treacherous double-cross ever foisted on Ontario taxpayers” (though it has been repeatedly upheld by the courts).

The critics are even more exercised over the 407’s insistence that it can pursue drivers for up to 15 years for the amounts they fail to pay. Provincial law says that companies must start legal proceedings to collect on unpaid bills within two years of the initial billing – unless they have an agreement with the debtor. That is a problem for the 407. As an open-access road, it can’t stop dodging up front. It must try to collect from dodgers afterward. As a result, it has been stiffed by quite a few drivers over the years, especially during the five-year period when the province was childishly refusing to uphold its contractual agreement to halt licence-plate renewals for dodgers.

Putting a two-year limitation on pursuing dodgers would prevent the 407 from recovering the missing money. So every 407 invoice contains a highlighted, boldface message warning users that the company reserves the right to keep after them for up to 15 years if they don’t pay. It says that each trip the driver takes on the 407 after the billing date constitutes the driver’s agreement.

That’s an outrage, says the Star, condemning the 407’s “bully-boy billing practices.” Merely receiving a note on an invoice then taking a drive on the 407 doesn’t bind the driver, it argues. And interest charges on unpaid bills can add up to thousands of dollars over 15 years.

Well, boo-hoo. Drivers can easily avoid being chased through the courts by the 407 through the simple expedient of paying their bills. A letter to the editor in the Hamilton Spectator put it nicely: “Let’s get this straight – we use a toll road, a road clearly marked as a toll road. We get a bill. We don’t pay it. We use the same toll road. And then we complain about being pursued for payment?”

Toll roads are so novel in Ontario that the road operators, not the dodgers, are the ones who get tarred as thieves. It’s a twisted way of seeing things and it’s going to have to change. With governments strapped for funds, we are going to need more tolls to pay for building and maintaining city roads and for underwriting better transit. The success of the 407 shows the way. Let’s celebrate, not condemn, it.

Article Source: http://www.transportfutures.ca/news/dont-tolls-407-well-boo-hoo

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6 Responses to “Don’t like tolls on the 407? Well, boo-hoo”

  1. Dave says:

    Sweet, I quite agree. To further your celebration of this marvel of civil engineering and its financial powers I understand that the 407 is even even immune to its users bankruptcy?

    Curious how this power hasn’t transferred to credit cards as well?

  2. Tammy Flores says:

    The Liberal Government quit half way during the fight and settled out of court. If the 407 ETR can’t get it’s act together and bill it’s customers correctly, it can do something to protect it’s business interests. It can set up manned toll booths. Then this will be the end of the story. No one will complain about dodging the tolls or not being billed correctly. The road operators are thieves when they intentionally supress a bill for about 5 years and then slam you with triple of what the original charge may have been. I say may have been because the 407 ETR does not have to prove anything. They just have to say you owe and so you owe. In their eyes, they don’t have to be transparent and tell us what they are charging us for. Putting up manned tolled boths will put an end to their thievery.

  3. Theives identity theft…

    […]Don’t like tolls on the 407? Well, boo-hoo | Stop The 407 ETR's Abuse Of Power[…]…

  4. The Liberal government of Premier Dalton McGuintyPremier Dalton McGuinty spent years fighting a bitter court battle over 407 tolls. Drivers often grumble about them or even refuse to pay them, though the road is a private enterprise and drivers take it by choice.

  5. charleneb says:

    I certainly hope the self-rightous arrogant writer of this article never finds him/herself at the MTO desk forced to fork over thousands of dollars to get his license plate renewed being the diligent pay for drive person he/she is. Are they that obtuse that they can’t believe the 407 can and will screw them over at some point? What a surprise it will be to find out that he is responsible because he drove it once and never got a bill, and the suppression system made sure the 27% interest got added for years before he was asked to pay it. It could also be because someone he loved and/or trusted (like their teenage son or daughter)repeatedly drove the writer’s vehicle on the highway, racking up the bill skyhigh or maybe simply because someone with a plate similar to their’s video picture wasn’t clear enough and 407 made a ‘guesstimate’ about who actually drove the highway and mistakenly billed the writer. Those issues happen EVERY DAY; the billing and collection of tolls aren’t always so black and white. Myself, I would be personally happy to pay my own tolls but the bill for tolls that has forced me both into plate denial and bankruptcy were incurred by an ex with out my knowledge, and the invoice suppressed for years when out of the blue I got a five figure bill that I could not have ever dreampt of paying even if I wanted to. So now that I’m insolvent and living in a rural location, I can’t even get to work to make a living thanks to the ‘plate denial remedy’. SO the boo hoo really is to you because thanks to my ‘thievery’ and the 407 ETR, I’m living off your tax dollars now 🙂

  6. JamesP. says:

    Why does the writer use ‘admin’ instead of their real name?

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