Team 12 Investigates: Huge E-ZPass fines shock New Yorkers
Over the last month, Team 12 Investigates spoke with several people who owed tens of thousands of dollars in late fees for tolls.
Assembly Member Kenny Burgos shared a video to Instagram of him discussing the E-ZPass fine issue during a budget hearing.
"The goal is to get tolls paid and to get that money into the proper agencies. We're having some good conversations, but we have a short timeline left for the session," said Burgos.
Many New Yorkers commented with similar issues, including one woman named Beck who tried to renew her car registration but was unable to. When she tried to renew the registration, she was shocked to hear she owed nearly $18,000 to the Port Authority and the same amount to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
“You feel dumb,” said Beck. “You feel like you shouldn’t have let it go, but it feels like the system is set up for you to fail and they keep charging you.”
Beck spent weeks trying to get in touch with someone to resolve the debt, eventually getting on a payment plan. Shortly after, Beck found her car booted.
A closer look at Beck's bill revealed that what should have been a $10.17 trip across the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge or the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel was costing her $110.17 each. She was relying on tolls by mail, paying each bill as she received them, but that some bills either came already overdue while others did not arrive at all.
"I had things in the mail, but nothing to say 'hey, you owe a lot of money'," said Beck.
Gloria Calderon is another person dealing with a similar situation. She lost her debit card and forgot to update her E-ZPass account with the new one, so her account was repeatedly charged with no means to pay. The only mail she received was months after passing through tolls, with orange envelopes to collect late payment fines.
Team 12 Investigates asked the Port Authority and MTA about the issues of never receiving bills or receiving them late that many New Yorkers say they're facing, and a spokesperson for the Port Authority said they recommend anyone with the issues to sign up with E-ZPass - but Gloria says that won't help.
An MTA spokesperson provided the same advice, also suggesting drivers sign up for the TollsNY app and update their contact information.
Burgos is now trying to pass a bill he believes could resolve toll issues for drivers, making changes to a bill that was vetoed twice during previous sessions.
The bill would cap the first fine at no higher than $5 and the second fine to no more than $25 or two times the toll. It also requires the agency responsible for the toll to get the bill to the driver within 30 days, and gives the driver 30 days after they get the bill.
Dealing with a similar issue? Reach out to Team 12 Investigates via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.