Cashless tolls are an easy way to collect revenue without disrupting traffic, but in New York electronic tolling has left millions of dollars in tolls and fees unpaid, according to an audit from New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
In an audit that covers Nov. 1, 2012, through Jan. 31, 2017, the state comptroller was tasked to determine whether the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority has done its due diligence in collecting unpaid tolls and fees. DiNapoli’s findings: Not even close.
The audit discovered that $11.3 million in tolls were either written off or uncollected. As of November 2016, there were more than 65,000 unregistered E-ZPass On-the-Go tags with negative balances totaling $2.3 million. Those tolls are essentially gone forever since there is no information about individuals who purchased the tags, according to the audit.
In February 2016, at least $2.79 million in unpaid deferred tolls was owed to the Triborough Authority. The state comptroller was told that there was only one attempt to collect deferred tolls from nine egregious violators. Other than that, no other action had been taken.
To make matters worse, more than $72 million in unpaid fees was found for the Henry Hudson Bridge from 2013 through 2015. Despite unpaid toll fees being placed as a deterrent, as much as 90 percent of such fees were waived.
MTA adds a $50 fee to each Tolls by Mail toll 30 days after a second monthly statement is issued and not paid. One violator found their toll bill go from $22 to $222 after being issued four $50 violation fees.
The Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority also failed to submit registration suspensions. In a 23-week period in 2016, the Authority submitted 225 plates for registration suspension. According to the audit, nearly 5,000 plates were eligible for suspension during that time period.
In January 2016, a new regulation allowed the Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend vehicles registrations for owners with five or more unpaid toll violations on different days within an 18-month period.
Lastly, the Triborough Authority had no mechanism in place to alert officials to pursue a vehicle on a toll violator list.
Among the several recommendations, the state comptroller advised the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority to revise the E-ZPass On-the-Go tag program. The audit suggested collecting the license plate number of drivers who purchase On-the-Go tags; limiting the number of On-the-Go tags a customer can purchase; and maintaining a database to track the sale of On-the-Go tags to prevent their sale to repeat offenders who do not register their tags.
The Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority is a Metropolitan Transportation Authority agency that serves nearly 300 million vehicles per month and carries more traffic than any other bridge or tunnel authority in the United States. Total operating revenue for 2016 was nearly $2 billion, with toll revenues used to subsidize MTA’s transit and commuter rail services.
Cashless tolling was implemented at the Henry Hudson Bridge in November 2012. According to the audit, approximately 94 percent of Henry Hudson Bridge motorists use E-ZPass cashless tolling. In 2015, the bridge generated more than $71 million in revenue, including $8.5 million through tolls by mail.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced in late-2016 that toll booths from seven bridges and two tunnels would be demolished and converted to cashless tolling by the end of 2017.
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