Opinion from Cameron Brewer
The NZ Transport Agency should hurry up with its investigations and deliver drivers better payment options when using the Northern Gateway Toll Road, which should preferably include the ability to pay via text.
Drivers are having to endure more unnecessary delays this holiday period, with many people queuing up at kiosks to manually pay their tolls.
The crazy thing is most people carry mobile phones. In fact New Zealand has one of the highest mobile phone ownership rates in the world. It’s time for NZTA to get innovative. Why you can’t simply text a number to pay for your toll and have it added to your phone bill is beyond me.
Within hours of the big Christchurch earthquake people were able to text through a donation, you can text your vote on shows like New Zealand’s Got Talent, and you can now pay for a lot of on-street parking via text. Being able to text to pay for a road toll needs to happen sooner rather than later. It’s pathetic that hot and bothered drivers will again have to waste time this summer because NZTA still hasn’t been able to deliver on a text solution.
Earlier this month NZTA responded to my enquiries into paying tolls via text with:
“Over the past year, the NZTA and potential service providers have been investigating the use of texting as a possible payment option. There is still work to be undertaken to achieve a fully integrated payment process that can be initiated via a text, and ensuring it is both cost effective and simple and will be used by a large number of customers. The complexities around this option involve more than simply texting a registration plate number to the NZTA…”
I remain adamant that texting to pay for a road toll could and should be done.
Texting payment technology is well established and relatively easy and cost effective to set up, people are used to paying for things via text, and the telco companies love it because they get a nominal slice of each transaction. It’s a no brainer and it would help reduce the net operational cost per transaction which is coming down but it’s still costing NZTA 65c which is still too high given the standard toll is just $2.20.
Ringing the call centre is very labour intensive and adds a lot of cost to transactions. Kiosks struggle to handle the big numbers at this time of year causing delays, paying via the website is clunky and takes up too much time, and too many people get stung after simply forgetting to pay. All the while, NZTA continues to investigate ways to find more cost effective alternatives but has yet to deliver anything. I say, the answer lies in everyone’s hand and that is their mobile phone.
Rather than having to stop at a roadside kiosk, ringing up a call centre, or remembering to get on the website, NZTA needs to stop wasting time which is again causing unnecessary delays this holiday period. Rolling out a mobile phone solution is well overdue. Being able to text your toll would be popular, cost-effective for NZTA, and would mean happier holidays for everyone.