Nearly 30,000 people registered to use the new tolled Port Mann Bridge in just the first two days of sign-ups, surprising project officials.
The early surge already puts the electronic tolling system 10 per cent of the way to its target of 300,000 registered users by the end of February.
“We’re very pleased that we’ve had the response we have had so far,” Port Mann/Highway 1 project communications director Max Logan said. “It’s a terrific start for us.”
The province wants regular bridge users to sign up and get the TReO windshield decal that is automatically and efficiently detected without the more costly use of licence plate cameras and manual image checks that will be used to invoice non-registered vehicles.
Officials also think the more drivers who register and use the system, the more will embrace the tolled Port Mann and not clog other routes to reach an untolled bridge.
As an incentive, half-price tolls – $1.50 for regular cars instead of $3 – apply for a full year for those who register before March 1, when the three-month discount period for all expires and non-registered users start paying full price.
A further incentive gives 20 free crossings to those who sign up before Nov. 30.
Logan expects many more users to register as those two deadlines near.
“Our goal is to have 80 to 85 per cent of our regular users registered,” Logan said.
The new Port Mann officially opens sometime in December with a free week before tolling begins.
TReO system registration opened Sept. 17 at www.treo.ca.
Logan said many drivers may not be aware yet of how the system works, that it costs nothing to register and get a decal and that it will also give them the lowest available toll when using TransLink’s Golden Ears Bridge.
Asked how many drivers who don’t register might escape paying, Logan said the licence plate recognition system has an accuracy rate of more than 95 per cent but manual reviews of images should bring the enforcement rate to 99 per cent and ensure virtually all are invoiced.
He said the “sophisticated” cameras can still read plates some drivers may try to obscure with dirt or other substances and motorists who do that face police enforcement.
Logan expects the “vast majority” of out-of-province visitors will also pay voluntarily.
Signs will direct non-B.C. residents to either pay their toll online or detour to customer service centres in Surrey or Coquitlam where they’ll be able to pay in person or use a drive-through kiosk without getting out of their car.
The Coquitlam centre is at Lougheed Highway at Woolridge, while the Surrey one is at the 160 St./104 Ave. interchange.