My adventure with OReGO is off to an uncertain start. The lights don’t blink the way they should, and for the weekend the help desk is closed.
OReGO — I’ve decided to go along with the overly precious capitalization — is ODOT’s attempt to show that Oregon’s first-in-the-nation mileage tax program can work on a mass scale. The state invited vehicle owners to sign up, and I did.
The way it works is that you choose one of three systems or vendors for reporting how many miles you drive. The one you pick sends you a device to plug into a port on your vehicle. Then you get an occasional bill for 1.5 cents per mile driven, along with a rebate for the 30-cents-a-gallon Oregon fuel tax you’ve paid.
After I signed up online, OReGO sent me a confirmation along with instructions on what to do with the mileage reporting device once it arrives. “Plug your MRD into the port and wait for the green lights to flash. This tells you your MRD is connected and ready to go.”
My gizmo arrived from its maker, Intelligent Mechatronic Systems Inc. in St. Louis, MO, in Friday’s mail. The first setback was that it looked nothing like the picture that OReGO had sent along with the instructions. Still, after dinner I plugged it in.
Instead of “green lights,” it briefly flashed a red-and-green double light. That was followed by slow flashes of red, kind of like a theft-protection device. The instructions say nothing about that. They just assume the green lights will flash and that’s that.
I went inside to consult the online instructions. When I went back out, a green light was flashing. I started the engine, and the flashes turned red. What did that mean? The OReGO leaflet that came with the MRD lists an 800 number for the help desk. When you call around 7 on a Friday night, you get a recording saying they are open during business hours Monday through Friday. I guess they don’t think their volunteers will run into issues with unforeseen flashing lights when they eagerly try to get started on this program when their MRDs arrive.
In the coming weeks, check here for progress reports — assuming there is progress — on how I fare with OReGO and how OReGO fares with me. (hh)