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Monday, November 24, 2014

Jury still out on automated Hudson Bridge toll

By Maya Rajamani
Posted
Riverdale Press file photo by Karsten Moran
62,000 cars a day cross the Henry Hudson Bridge, seen here from Manhattan. They have not had to stop for tolls in over a year.

For over a year now, drivers on the Henry Hudson Bridge have been able to cruise through the toll lanes on the bridge without stopping, thanks to an “All Electronic Tolling” (AET) pilot program testing the efficiency of a gateless, cashless toll system on the commuter bridge.

But since the pilot program launched in Nov. 2012, Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) board member Charles Moerdler says drivers who travel without E-ZPasses have had to wait up to three months to receive bills in the mail, while the MTA has had difficulty collecting on them. 

In the executive budget for the year, Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed legislation that would allow the MTA to suspend the vehicle registration of a driver who receives three or more notices about a toll that he or she has failed to pay in an 18-month span. Drivers could also face fines of between $100 and $500 for a violation.

Mr. Moerdler says the legislation will directly benefit the Henry Hudson Bridge’s AET program. 

“The amount of money we lose from people who don’t pay is a seven-figure number,” he added.  

While 94 percent of the approximately 62,000 drivers who pass over the bridge daily pay via E-ZPass, the MTA bills drivers without an E-ZPass after they pass through the tolls. Cameras installed at the toll plaza capture license plate numbers and the MTA mails a paper bill to registered car owners. Those who fail to pay the bill or drive through with an invalid E-ZPass receive a violation. 

The pilot program, conducted by MTA Bridges and Tunnels, hopes to determine the effect of an all-electronic system on a traffic heavy corridor like the Henry Hudson Bridge. It is also examining the workings of each step in the process, from cameras that capture license plates to back-office billing and collection rates.

MTA spokesperson Judie Glave said data from the pilot program will only be analyzed when it concludes at the end of the year. 

Ms. Glave said that since the pilot program began, the MTA has altered the billing cycle, reducing the time a driver waits for the toll in the mail from 60 to 30 days, after receiving inquiries from people waiting for their bills to arrive. 

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