© Guardian photo by Sally Cole
The Confederation Bridge
Strait Crossing looks for cost efficiencies; union worries about loss of jobs, safety
The possibility of night self-serve-only tollbooths on the Confederation Bridge raises some concerns for the travelling public. The idea is in its earliest stages as Strait Crossing Bridge Limited has the green light to study this matter.
Company manager Michel LeChasseur compares the idea to gas stations being self-serve and argues it’s about sustainability and being a cost-efficient business. Most self-serve gas stations require customers to pump and then go in to pay to an attendant. Many card swipe options at outside pumps don’t work or malfunction. No one is anxious to swipe a card, then see it swallowed, or see your money disappear from your bank account or added to your credit card statement and then remain at the tollbooth when the barrier doesn’t rise up. If you have cash only, too bad. Technology is grand — when it works. And Murphy’s Law dictates a problem will likely occur disproportionately at 3 a.m. over daylight hours.
The bridge already has automated tollbooths to accompany attendants and Mr. LeChasseur argues why wouldn’t SCBL at least look at the night option. If the company becomes more efficient and saves money, then obviously its operating costs will be less and toll increases should be reduced.
The union representing toll workers is worried about job losses, a legitimate concern for its membership. But the SCBL argument about attendant safety seems a little far-fetched. There has never been a robbery or attempted robbery since the bridge opened in 1997 because of the bristling network of surveillance cameras and security in the area. Improved booth security should address any safety concerns.
Bridge users already find it a little confusing driving up to the toll booths in daylight as they try and read the small overhead signs to confirm if they have a green light, are in the proper lane for cash, or electronic cards or both. Suddenly it’s too late to change lanes, you can’t back up and frustration sets in. Motorists will be even more nervous dealing with an automated tollbooth.
The union may be engaged in a little sabre-rattling but it does have an argument by warning that travelers will have reduced service. And Mr. LeChasseur does note that bridge tollbooth workers often act as tourist guides to visitors, much like Northumberland Ferries Ltd. booth personnel do at both Wood Islands and Caribou.
Strait Crossing simply cannot afford any problems at night so the whole idea might be moot. The personal touch appears to outweigh arguments for computers on this one.
Timely advice for drivers
Transportation Minister Robert Vessey is making a vital argument when he urges motorists to exercise more caution on Island highways now that motorcycle owners are putting their bikes back on the road. Nearly 10,000 Islanders hold a motorcycle driver’s licence and there are 2,700 motorcycles registered in the province. May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and the minister’s warnings are very timely.
There have been a number of fatal crashes involving motorcycles and other vehicles on Island roads in recent years. Since 2008 there have been 13 fatalities and 189 injuries here as a result of accidents involving motorcycles. Crashes can happen with just a moment’s inattention because drivers don’t expect to see a motorcycle, with a small, single headlamp or a driver dressed all in black. Speed, lack of attention, driving while distracted by a mobile device, or driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs all contribute to these crashes.
Motorcycle drivers are often tempted to pull out and zip past a vehicle turning ahead of them. And the results can be tragic. All drivers should slow down, obey the rules of the road and stay alert.