Cashless tolling has cost the MTA millions due to unpaid fees and fines, audit shows

Ken Lovett

New York Daily News

Nov 21, 2017

As the state has moved to cashless tolling, tens of millions of dollars in MTA bridge and tunnel tolls and fines have gone unpaid, a new audit by state Controller Thomas DiNapoli found.

The audit found that while MTA Bridges & Tunnels generally attempted to collect unpaid tolls, $11.3 million was written off or uncollected from November 2012 through January 2017.

In addition, auditors found $72 million in unpaid fees that were supposed to be attached to tolls that went uncollected on the Henry Hudson Bridge from 2013 through 2015. In many cases, as much as 90% of fees that were due upon the receipt of payment of unpaid tolls were waived. The MTA told auditors that the fees serve as a deterrent and the waiver policy leads to a higher collection rate of unpaid tolls, an argument auditors raised doubts about.

The MTA, which operates seven toll bridges and two tunnels in New York City, has moved to open-road tolling that dismantled toll booths. Drivers can pay using E-ZPass or have their license plates photographed as they pass so a bill can be sent by mail.

The DiNapoli audit also says the MTA has not aggressively used the option of seeking suspensions of vehicle registrations for those who did not pay their tolls.

As of this past May, there were 10,421 vehicles eligible for suspension, but just 736 were submitted to the state Department of Motor Vehicles for action.

Among the audit's recommendations is that the MTA develop a better system to collect unpaid tolls, evaluate options for fee collection, and prioritize the implementation of controls relating to deterrence at sites where cashless tolling is allowed.