NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - The man who helped many get out from under thousands of dollars in toll bills is stepping down after a year on the job.
After a rough start that left a bad taste with drivers, Elizabeth River Crossings put Philip Shucet in charge of things.
His promise to serve for one year has come to an end.
First question, how do you take ERC from being one of the most hated companies to it not being that?
“You start thinking about what type of company you need to be and want to be,” Shucet said.
One year ago on March 31, 2017, then Governor Terry McAuliffe told people what to do with their exorbitant toll bills.
"You take that bill, and you rip it up, and you throw it away," the governor said to great applause.
Later that afternoon 10 On Your Side went and spoke with Shucet.
"I get it. He's not happy," Shucet said.
It was Shucet's first day on the job as ERC's new CEO, and he was already changing the ERC philosophy.
“Every person that uses these tunnels or the MLK or one of our facilities is not just a customer, they are a valued customer,” he said.
That had never been expressed since the tolls began.
Shucet emphasized "‘valued customers."
Why was the valued customers approach critical for his management philosophy?
“We needed to emphasize it because people didn't believe it, and ERC got defensive about that.”
Change in ERC tone began on Shucet's first day.
The number one change: “Getting rid of spiraling late fees because they didn't make any sense,” Shucet immediately said without hesitation.
Shucet axed exorbitant fees -- one year ago 18,000 people owed over $2,200.
Usually 80 percent of what was owed to ERC was for compounding fees, only 20 percent was from the actual tolls.
One year later, the 18,000 is down to between 2,500 and 5,000 who over $2,200 dollars.
By forgiving fees, how much money was recouped for ERC?
10 On Your Side asked is it more than $500,000. Shucet said yes. Is it more than a million dollars? Shucet said yes. Is it more than $2 million? Shucet seemed to think that was too high without saying it, so we settled in at $1.5 million dollars.
What did Shucet say was his biggest accomplishment?
He said putting 1,200 E-ZPass On-The-Go kits into hands of people that didn't have E-ZPass.
“These things had $35 dollars of real money. We put that into peoples' hands, and over 80 percent have replenished their accounts,” Shucet said.
Shucet credits 10 On Your Side's continued coverage for helping to fix the problems.
“10 On Your Side is important because you brought the public awareness to the forefront ... you brought the message ‘call, call, call, and you can get this settled.’ You helped settle some accounts over the air which I thought was pretty cool.”
Over the course of the year, 10 On Your Side did stories with scores of people like Bill West, who was wrongly tolled, and Michael Farrell, who took ERC to court and only paid 50 cents on the dollar for the toll-only portion of the bill.”
Moving forward, Shucet says ERC's new CEO Doug Wilson, from Rhode Island, needs to do this.
“ERC needs to continue to be aware of its place in the community here ... getting into the community these E-ZPass On-The-Go kits. They are very important. We need to be more aware, more engaged in the public, and I think things are headed that way.”
As for Shucet, he's spent 46 years in transportation, including the fixing of Hampton Roads Transit, VDOT, and now ERC.
He says he’s done. Is he?
This exchange followed when he said that: “Are you telling me if your Commonwealth calls you that you would say ‘no?’ He responded, “If my Commonwealth calls me?" We reminded him the camera is on. He then, in that Shucet style, with a big grin and laugh said, “I'm sure we will have a good conversation."
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