More on Nexus

Now that I’ve actually used the Nexus kiosks on a quick trip to Boston, I have three more things to say.

First, one of my readers mentioned that he applied to the Canadian Government and received his card in 4 weeks, which was a week or two faster than my application to the US Government. The US program is more convenient – completely on line – and less expensive ($50, rather than $80) but the Canadian program delivers faster. Take your choice.

Second, the kiosk was easy to use. A female voice – call her Iris – tells you how to position yourself so that the iris recognition camera gets a good picture. I wore my very soft and flexible bifocal contact lenses, which are a pale blue and have the numbers “123” printed lightly to help the wearer ensure that they are not inside out, and Iris still had no trouble recognizing my irises.

The third point concerns the economics of the Nexus program. In a competitive market, the long run cost of production should equal the value of the product to the marginal user. The Nexus program, of course (or at least we should hope) is a monopoly, so the relevant question is what it should charge. As it now stands, for $50 you get the cost of the application (processing your information, an in-person interview, and the production of a high-tech RFID card) as well as 5 years’ use of the kiosks to short-circuit immigration queues going into the US or returning to Canada from anywhere.

That strikes me as a great bargain. Likely $ 50 doesn’t even cover the cost of the application process, making some allowance for contributing to the cost of the technology. Yes Nexus does reduce the operating costs of the Canada Border Services Agency and US Customs and Border Protection by diverting trusted travelers from the their agents’ queues, but how much cost saving would that diversion represent?

In a world where both the Canadian and US governments will be looking for ways to increase user fees to reduce the deficit, I can’t imagine that they won’t target Nexus. Conclusion: get your Nexus card while it’s still a great deal.

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