Carlucci’s Column: Fixing cashless tolls driving people into debt

BY STATE SENATOR DAVID CARLUCCI

As the state moves toward a system of entirely cashless tolling, we have seen its growing pains and its shortcomings. The program’s flaws need to be addressed and need to be fixed now.

In Rockland and Westchester Counties, we have witnessed firsthand the results of an aggressively expanded cashless program. Drivers have been ensnared in sky-high late fees for toll violations they did not even know they had incurred on the Tappan Zee/Mario Cuomo Bridge. In many cases, drivers did not receive their toll notice in the mail. Then fees for some ballooned to several thousand dollars, with no explanation as to how the they got that high. In those cases, some people even had their cars seized forcing them to be escorted to police stations to then find rides home.

It is true, there are some bad actors, people who chronically and purposefully evade tolls. However, many of the victims did not get their bills due to errors in addresses or they received the tolls once they had already incurred late fees. This is unacceptable. We need to ensure people are made aware quickly of their toll bill and that they can pay it easily. This should not be difficult or burdensome for consumers.

To fix the problems, Assemblyman Abinanti and I introduced the Toll Payer Protection Act. This bill streamlines the cashless toll process to ensure that consumers gain easy and quick access to their bills online, by text, or by mail. Drivers would be able sign up for the option most convenient for them, and then be able to see what they owe clearly. An itemized list of relevant information for a toll fee must be included in each bill sent to a consumer.

The bill will also protect drivers by allowing them to dispute a toll fee online. This is a big improvement over the current process, which forces drivers to mail in a written request to the Thruway Authority or other toll enforcers.

We must do more to lower toll fees, and the Toll Payer Protection Act is a common sense solution that my fellow lawmakers should support.