New toll system taking its toll on drivers
Mar 06, 2018 | 6971 views | 2 2 comments | 454 454 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cashless tolling, the new MTA program that did away with toll booths was intended to ease congestion on the state's busy bridges.

And for the most part, it seems to be helping. Crossing any of the city bridges during rush hour is never a pleasant experience, but at least now cars don't have to slow to a 10-mph crawl to have their E-ZPass tag read or, even worse, stop altogether to pay a toll.

But there are some serious issues with the technology and system that need to be addressed.

First, a recent audit by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli found that fees for unpaid tolls from drivers who had their license plate photographed were going largely uncollected by the MTA, to the tune of somewhere in the neighborhood of $11 million.

The MTA argues that forgiving the fees leads to a better collection rate on the unpaid tolls, but the auditors had their doubts.

Meanwhile, there is another fee that the MTA is not forgiving, and that's for drivers who let their E-ZPass account fall below zero but still go over the bridges on a regular basis.

Under the old system, when an E-ZPass user pulled up to the toll booth, if their account was running low on funds a digital message board would alert them, which is no longer the case. Now, unaware drivers continue to cross the bridges.

In other instances, the new system stopped accepting a credit or debit card a driver had on file to replenish their account automatically.

And the fines are astronomical. Unsuspecting drivers report getting invoices stating they owe thousands of dollars in fines for the innocent transgression.

A Rocakway woman who uses the Verrazano and Bayonne bridges regularly and didn't realize her E-ZPass account was at zero got slapped with a $100 fine every time she went across the former, and $50 every time she used the latter.

Before she knew it, she owed over $2,000. She says she has tried to argue for leniency from the state to no avail, and is going into debt paying off the charges.

To recap: drivers who willfully ignore the bills they are sent for tolls have their fines forgiven, while E-ZPass users trying to do the right thing but inadvertently find themselves afoul of the system dip deep into their pockets to keep from having their accounts turned over to a collection agency, or worse, their vehicle registration suspended.

No one likes congestion, but the MTA needs to make sure cashless tolling isn't costing unsuspecting drivers a lot of extra cash, as well as collect the cash from the people who are blatantly ignoring their bills.
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March 09, 2018
Pay it up on time or you get the fine from the bureaucratic MTA.
March 13, 2018
Why did the DOT remove one lane of traffic in each direction on the Queens side of the JFK Bridge. There is a bottleneck there 24/7 now.