A not so EZ time at the cashless tolls

Drivers getting hit with fines at Cross Bay bridge, other crossings

One of the top issues being called into the office of Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Park) lately is drivers getting hit with fines due to an issue with the cashless tolls at the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge.

“This is dollars and cents coming out of your pocket,” the assemblywoman, a Rockaway resident, said. “We use the bridge to do most of our errands so you’re talking about multiple trips per day ... think about how that builds up.”

One person, Pheffer Amato said, came with five bills with an average of $250 in fines on each one.

“That scares you,” she said. “That’s over some people’s paychecks for the week. It’s very intimidating.”

Cashless tolling has been rolled out at bridges and tunnels in the five boroughs to speed up traffic and ease congestion at the crossings. A picture is taken of a car’s license plate and a monthly bill is sent to the registered owner of the vehicle or deducted from their EZ-Pass account.

But some drivers using EZ-Pass are now saying they’re having problems with the credit cards linked to the system not being recognized, leading to them receiving fines. Before cashless tolling took effect, drivers were notified if there was a low balance on their account — that’s no longer the case with the new system.

The issue has been prevalent at the bridge connecting Broad Channel to Rockaway, which went cashless in May, with residents from the peninsula and the mainland alike calling to complain.

“I have my employees working on a number of cases,” she said.

The assemblywoman is asking the MTA for an amnesty period for the fines and outreach to drivers to be conducted for everyone to be aware on how to check their account.

An MTA spokesman said in an emailed statement, “Cashless Tolling is enhancing traffic flow, reducing congestion and decreasing commute times at MTA Bridges and Tunnels, making it easier for New Yorkers to get where they need to go.

“However, the use of an E-ZPass when there are no funds available is a violation and can result in fees being assessed,” the spokesman continued in a written statement. “To avoid this situation, we highly recommend our customers sign up for E-ZPass mobile alerts, where they can receive important information regarding their E-ZPass account, including low balance notifications.”