While the push to implement cashless tolling was met with applause, it seems as though things have taken a turn for the worse.
While commuting time is down — the MTA has said that cashless tolling has cut out 3.4 million hours in travel time — motorists have seen a rapid rise of violations, thanks to scanner errors and a lack of notification for accumulated penalties.
This has led to a push from state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) to create an amnesty program to help drivers who have received unfair or improper penalties.
“We have many residents who are working and trying to maintain their bills only to find out after 60 days when the fine was imposed that they have an impending bill because there was a cashless toll that didn’t register… or for whatever reason didn’t read the E-ZPass going through it,” Comrie said on the steps of Queens Borough Hall last week. “The system is a mess.”
Some drivers are not being notified of penalties or violations in a timely manner, which leads to unjustified late fees that they should not be required to pay.
Richmond Hill resident Debra Wolf, who commutes by car across the Verrazano Bridge twice a day, joined Comrie at Queens Borough Hall and said she had unknowingly racked up $2,000 in fines after making the trip to and from work in New Jersey with a depleted E-ZPass for an entire month. She was never notified that charges were not going through to her E-ZPass.
Wolf is just one of many who have experienced issues since cashless tolling was implemented. It must come to an end.
Elected officials in Queens and throughout the city need to follow Comrie’s lead and back his legislation that would create a six-month toll amnesty program for the MTA. The legislation would allow drivers to pay any outstanding tolls in full, without having to worry about additional fines or violations. This would give the time to improve its notification system to ensure the scanners are working properly.
The push for cashless tolling was a step in the right direction — it does limit travel time and has even cut out 1.6 million gallons of fuel and 15,400 tons of carbon emissions, the MTA said — but the implementation of the new system came before it was truly ready.
It’s unfair for the MTA to levy late fees and violations against commuters when the agency can’t offer a more timely notification system. Until then, the MTA needs to give commuters more time to pay for their violations.