(KRON) — Some Bay Area residents have racked up hundreds, even thousands in debt from charges stemming from unpaid FasTrak toll fees. However, legislation proposed by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) would eliminate much of what is owed.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, bridge toll collectors were taken away in an attempt to minimize person-to-person contact. Instead, drivers could pay electronically with FasTrak or could pay after being mailed an invoice.
However, current law allows toll agencies to charge up to $500 for repeat violations of late payments, allowing fees to skyrocket. Ting said one Alameda County resident owes more than $30,000. Only 12% of the second notice violations sent out between January 1 and August 31, 2021 were paid, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
“While I applaud the use of technology for toll payments, we’ve disproportionately impacted drivers who don’t have debit or credit cards. The fines and penalties imposed on unpaid tolls can total more than a ticket for traffic violations,” said Ting. “We shouldn’t saddle Californians with unrelenting debt just for going to work.”
Ting’s bill would eliminate late fees from toll payments accrued from Bay Area bridge crossings after March 20, 2020 for “income-elgible drivers.” The actual tolls must be paid before the penalties and late fees can be waived. If the legislation passes, an application process will go from July 1, 2023 to September 30, 2024.
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The bill would also put several reforms into place to prevent these problems from happening again. Toll agencies, highway express lanes and bridges would have to implement the following items:
- Offer a cash-payment option with no additional fees
- Cap fines for toll violations and late payments
- Establish payment plans for fines and penalties
- Set a minimum time period to pay fines before car registration is suspended for nonpayment
Ting’s bill is now headed to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office. Newsom has until Sept. 30 to decide on it.