Newspaper article Roll Call

Tollbooth Scofflaws Have Become Multimillion-Dollar Headaches

Newspaper article Roll Call

Tollbooth Scofflaws Have Become Multimillion-Dollar Headaches

Article excerpt

Human toll collectors are becoming a vanishing breed as states and highway authorities increasingly move to all-electronic tolling, or AET. But the new technology comes with its own costs.

With AET, a driver either has a transponder (such as E-ZPass) in the vehicle, or monitoring stations photograph his license plate and the tolling authority mails a bill to the address on the vehicle's registration.

And when a car doesn't have to stop, it's apparently easier to roll up a big tab.

As Gannett's Journal News, which covers the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, reported last week, "Toll-dodging drivers on the Henry Hudson Bridge [which connects the New York City boroughs of the Bronx and Manhattan] have racked up an eye-popping $23.6 million in debt between November 2012 through March 2014."

The unpaid total in New York includes $2.2 million in unpaid tolls and $21.4 million in late fees and violation charges.

AET saves time and money -- no more old-fashioned toll plazas at which drivers stop and idle, and no more toll collectors whose salaries and benefits must be paid over decades of service -- but toll-road authorities need to put resources toward ensuring that people pay up, said Robert Poole, director of Transportation Policy at the Reason Foundation.

"All-electronic tolling definitely requires stepped-up enforcement, especially if many of the customers do not have transponders and pre-paid accounts, and must therefore be billed based on their license plate information," Poole said Tuesday.

To that end, a New York state lawmaker has proposed legislation to suspend vehicle registrations if owners fail to respond to five toll-due notices.

Such legal authority already "exists in a few states, but will need to become widespread as the United States moves toward nationwide inter-operability of electronic tolling systems," Poole said. …

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