2018-04-25 / Editorials

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Rockaway residents, who for many years were able to cross the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge for free, are now finding themselves bombarded with violations, fines, penalties and interest adding up to thousands of dollars. They used to be able to cross the bridge, and at the toll, they would be charged and then instantly credited for the charge, so that they, as residents would not be charged unfairly for their daily commute to other parts of the city, including their own borough of Queens.

Enter the new E-ZPass toll-less system. Residents twice daily or more enter the bridge, and are not notified of any possible low balance. In the past, they would have been advised by the toll collector, or a red light at the toll. Now, unless they specifically check their account for some random reason, they are no longer being advised—until it is way too late. They then do not pay the nominal fee which would instantly have been credited, because they don’t know they need to. Instead, they are fined. And then fined again and again. The driver would be fined $100 each time, unbeknownst to them, not having received any notification for weeks. Then they are charged interest and finally go into collections, so that what would originally have cost around $2 is ratcheted up to thousands in some cases—$15,000 in just six weeks for one person we have seen. And unless the driver disputes the charges and goes through channels and bureaucracy, charges continue to climb. Many will just give up and pay the fines because they can’t risk having their passes revoked (and they don’t have the time and/or energy to wait for automated answering to guess the reason for their call, let alone help them at all.)

It is a ridiculous situation, and clearly not the drivers’ faults.

The charges should be forgiven, so that the people of Rockaway don’t end up stranded and held hostage on the island, unable to get to work and school. We believe there was no intention to “beat” the toll charges and the people should have all the fines and penalties waived.

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