How To Save The Tunnel
November volumes at the Tunnel are down another 60,000. Since July when Eddie increased the tolls, if the numbers hold, about 10% of Tunnel volume will have been lost by year-end. We won't need to spend the $30M on Tunnel Plaza Improvement since there will not be any traffic going there if this keeps up.
It is obvious that the Tunnel is in big trouble. Its revenues are down and so is its volume of traffic. Remember back earlier in the year at the Joint Councils meeting in Detroit when the Mayor boasted about the $6.6M dividend Windsor receives..... Bet he cannot brag about it now!
Back in February 2005, Eddie said "given the amount of work that department faces, I think it's time to assign a specific individual or individuals to better manage the affairs of our greatest revenue-producing asset." I wonder if that was done? If not, is this another failure in management that has proven to be harmful to the Tunnel?
I do not think anyone has been hired yet. So who is minding the shop there as taxpayer dividends and value are going down the toilet: The Mayor/Chair of the WTC, the Board, anyone? When is the new person supposed to be hired, you know the one who is to "breathe" the Tunnel (I hope though for his/her sake, not too deeply since the exhaust from the Tunnel is not scrubbed!) It has only been about 2 years..almost as long it seems as hiring a CEO for the Development Commission. Perhaps Remo Mancini can do both jobs!
Do you honestly believe that the President of the private enterprise Ambassador Bridge would sit idly by as revenues decreased and traffic went down by 10 % in 6 months? And some of you still want a Public Authority and a public bridge? Wow!!
This has a compound effect. If traffic numbers are down then the Tunnel Duty Free Shop has a probability of a lot fewer customers coming to buy there. Again the City hurts because its revenues from the Duty Free go down too.
Perhaps if the Chair of the WTC would reveal the audit report on the Tunnel---without a MFOIA request to stall things---you, dear reader, might be able to help out with some brilliant ideas.
Anyway, we know that is not going to be done so let's be a bit creative. Or rather, let us "borrow" the ideas of others since they have figured out what to do. Our best and closest example is the Bridge Co. How have they been able to keep their traffic numbers up and how have they been able to sell a lot of merchandise through their Bridge Duty Free shop:
SELL DUTY FREE GASOLINE!
Do you remember a Letter to the Editor in the Star: "The Ambassador Bridge will certainly see an increase in business now. After all, gas is cheaper at the duty free to the extent that the savings pays for your toll and then they throw in a food voucher worth a couple of bucks and a 50-cent discount coupon."
Have you ever wanted to buy gas at their duty free gas bars and had to wait until an empty pump opened up? Or waited in line to pay your money for the gas in the Shop and just bought some cigarettes or a bottle of alcohol while you were waiting?
Oh please, do you remember when the Bridge Co. tried to do this on the Canadian side and were shot down in flames? Undercutting local merchants was the big cry against them. Why they even went to Court and lost against Revenue Canada.
But it is a different world now at the Tunnel and they are desperate for cash. I am sure that Administration can prepare a Report saying a Duty Free Gas Bar will not take away local business. The argument would be "There is not enough of a savings for motorists to take the Tunnel, pay the toll, buy their gas at the Tunnel and smuggle the gasoline back through customs...It'll cost you more in time [and]... Duty-free gasoline does not compete with domestic retailers." [Those arguments are courtesy of the Bridge Co. too so Administration can use them !]
Hey I've got another one--to avoid long lines at Customs and to make it easy for people to cross in order to boost numbers, the Tunnel should co-operate in the Bridge Co's 200 booth proposal. That's a lot smarter and cheaper than subsidizing NEXUS passes as the Mayor talked about.
But the Tunnel better be quick. "The Ambassador Bridge does not have gas pumps in Windsor, but it installed diesel fuel underground tanks and built the concrete pads and canopy for diesel pumps back in 1997 when it lobbied the federal government for tax exemption on the sale of gasoline." So they are ready and able to start right away!
And if the Tunnel refuses to co-operate on the booths, then Bridge users alone will be able to use the 100 booths in either direction to cross quickly while Tunnel users line up and read on the Mayor's proposed signage how long it will take them to cross over. We don't want Tunnel users stressed do we.