Today is the 'last run' for the toll-free number connecting New Jersey Transit, the third largest transit agency in the US, with its customers.
Could this be the beginning of the end for toll-free numbers in North America?
NJ Transit has since June been switching callers from 800-772-2222 to 973-275-5555. When you call the toll free number today you will get a recorded message asking you to call the 973 number And according to an opinion piece in the July 22 Cherry Hill (NJ) Courier-Post, after July 31, there will no longer be any message at the 1-800 number.
NJ Transit abandoned toll-free to cut costs. The high gas prices have attracted more riders but have also increased the costs of diesel fuel used on its buses and many of its commuter trains: the agency also has an electrified commuter rail and light rail network.
The technology environment is finally right for ending toll-free service. NJ Transit, like many public agencies along with private companies, has been diverting calls away from live agents through the Internet, including a mobile-enabled site, and with proactive means such as automated outbound text alerts.
New Jersey residents, like many others across North America, have been switching from TDM to IP, which makes long distance charges irrelevant. My son, who lives in the central part of the state, bought IP with a package from his cable company. Also, North Americans are becoming used to paying per contact, as their counterparts in other parts of the world have long done, through their text messaging rates.
By dropping toll-free, NJ Transit could be blazing a trail for other companies and organizations to follow. The move saves money without cutting customer care, allowing scarce resources to be more efficiently deployed elsewhere.
There has been so far some cries against the move, such as the aforementioned newspaper editorial (see below), because it does increase the costs and hassle of information access from especially poorer customers. Yet the screams have not been loud enough at this point to get the agency to change its mind.
Who will be the next to follow in NJT's path? Do I hear any roar from the airlines?