LANSING -- Easy access and saving money are two
advantages Michigan residents like when going through their daily routines.
Since early October, life for some travelers has been easier when crossing the International Bridge, which connects Michigan with Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. They've been able to buy International Quick (IQ) cards at 40 percent savings instead of paying the toll in cash or tickets each time.
"We're trying to make it more convenient for crossers," said Dawn Garner, Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) communication representative for the International Bridge. "This helps introduce technology that will be used in the future."
The bridge previously offered ticket books for people who traveled across the border frequently. IQ cards offer more benefits such as a single card instead of a booklet of tickets. Cardholders can also register their card for protection if it's lost or stolen.
Only about 13 percent of the 3,400-plus IQ accounts sold during the first month have been registered. To register, customers can either go online and fill out an electronic form or stop by the International Bridge administration office building at the toll plaza.
"In a process of one year, we would receive about 1 million tickets to count," said Peter Petainen, the bridge's chief financial officer. "Instead of having somebody count tickets each day, they can spend time talking with customers."
The new cards allow households with more than one vehicle to have multiple cards on the same account.
"My wife can be on the same account as mine," said Petainen, who commutes to work each day from Sault St. Marie Ont., to his office on the Michigan side. "Before last month, households would have to pass ticket books from car to car."
A card can be purchased in increments of 20 trips at $16 U.S. or $20 Canadian. They must be purchased in Michigan, but can be used when traveling in either direction.
Petainen said when compared to last year, card sales were 22 percent greater over the last month than the sales of ticket books.
"I had one individual that came through the other day and wanted 100 trips on his card," Petainen said. "Rather than coming in every few weeks, he doesn't have to worry about it for two months."
Michigan and Ontario also connect at the Ambassador Bridge and Windsor Tunnel between Detroit and Windsor and at the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron and Sarnia.
"We don't offer anything like that to the public," said Blue Water Bridge supervisor Tracy Portis. "Our employees do have identification cards and truckers have a commercial debit account, which they have to make deposits into each month. Their trucks are scanned every time they go through."
Sixty-two of the more than 1,200 employees of Kewadin Casinos make the commute each day from their homes in Ontario. Kewadin Casinos are in Sault Ste Marie, St. Ignace, Manistique, Hessel and Christmas.
"Using the IQ cards are much easier and faster than using the bridge tickets," said Marie Bayles, an administrative assistant at Kewadin Sault Casino. "They save you money in the long run. I don't know of any Canadian citizen working at Kewadin Casinos that doesn't have one."