FasTrak Luddites beware! Starting at midnight on New Year's Eve, drivers without FasTrak tags or existing License Plate Accounts with the Bay Area Toll Authority will begin receiving monthly invoices for toll crossings on seven Bay Area bridges, as part of a new all-electronic toll collection system.
The Bay Area Toll Authority announced this week that Friday will begin the next era in tolls at the Bay, Antioch, Benicia-Martinez, Carquinez, Dumbarton, Richmond, and San Mateo bridges.
Cash tolls were suspended back in March for the safety of toll workers — who also lost their jobs — and the pandemic has served to accelerate a phasing-out of toll-takers that was supposed to be spread over five years. But those without established toll accounts or FasTrak fobs have been getting one-off invoices — generated using photos of license plates — for each toll crossing since the spring. This is the same process that's been used by the Golden Gate Bridge since it phased out toll-takers in 2013 (and it is operated independently by the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District).
But along with the change in March, all fees associated with not paying at the time of crossing were suspended, and there was some greater leniency with payment. That all ends in the new year, when drivers who have (somehow!) not gotten on board with FasTrak in the 20 years since its inception will begin getting monthly invoices mailed to the address of their car's registration. And late-payment fees will begin racking up mighty quickly.
As KPIX reports, 30 days after an invoice is sent, drivers who haven't paid yet will receive a "Notice of Toll Evasion" with a $25 penalty tacked on for each toll crossing on the invoice. After 60 days, the penalty goes up to $70 per crossing.
If an invoice goes unpaid for 90 days or more, drivers could see a hold put on their vehicle registration by the DMV and/or they'll see the entire amount owed sent to a collection agency (it's not clear which happens first, or if both will always occur).
It remains astonishing that people who own cars in the Bay Area have not gotten FasTrak tags if only for the convenience — but this being the Bay Area, since the dawn of FasTrak, you have people who are suspicious of privacy issues, like if the fobs were being used to track vehicles. (In New York City in the late 1990s, when the similar EZPass system was introduced, very quickly most toll lanes became EZPass lanes which effectively forced everyone to adopt it or else sit in lengthy traffic lines. In the Bay Area, the toll district very slowly introduced the FasTrak lanes one at a time at each toll plaza over the last 20 years, lest there be a riot.)
Also, in recent years, those with FasTrak fobs have been able to use a growing number of paid Express Lanes when they don't have time for traffic.
Those who remain suspicious of the electronic fobs can sign up for License Plate Accounts which allow you to pay ahead as if you had a fob, and which just scan your license plate for each crossing.
Now with every toll lane at every bridge being surveilled, it only makes sense to sign up for one or the other, if only avoid being charged crazy fines for missing a bill.
Get FasTrak here. Or, open a License Plate Account here.
Photo: Noah Berger/Metropolitan Transportation Commission