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Commission Endorses Toll Payment and Penalty Reform Bill

Mark Jones

MTC this week unanimously endorsed legislation authored by state Assemblymember Phil Ting of San Francisco to make the penalties assessed by California toll agencies — including the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA), the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, and operators of the Bay Area’s express lanes — less financially burdensome and to establish statewide standards for toll agencies’ customer service and toll payment operations.

Assembly Bill 2594 recently was amended to incorporate feedback from toll agencies statewide. The bill currently includes the following provisions:

  • Require toll agencies to waive penalties for first-time violators who enroll in the FasTrak® electronic toll collection program, a practice already in place at BATA and MTC toll facilities.
  • Establish a $25 per violation cap on penalties for first bridge toll violation notice and a $50 per violation cumulative cap for a second notice. This will not affect the Bay Area’s seven state-owned toll bridges, as BATA lowered violation penalties to $5 for a first notice and a total of $15 for a second notice. This provision will reduce toll violation penalties at the Golden Gate Bridge, which currently are $25 for a first notice with an additional $45 assessed if a second notice is required.
  • Establish a 15-day grace period during which only the unpaid toll amount would be due on a first notice of a bridge toll violation; if the violation notice remains unpaid after 15 days, a penalty up to $25 would be allowed.
  • Establish a $100 per transaction cumulative cap on penalties for unpaid use of express lanes and toll roads.
  • Require toll agencies operating toll bridges by July 1, 2023 to offer customers from households with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level a payment plan through which these customers could pay off toll penalties over time; and allow customers who enroll in the payment plan to renew their vehicle registration if they remain in good standing with the payment plan. Sets a July 1, 2024 date for toll agencies operating express lanes and toll roads to offer a payment plan.
  • Require toll agencies operating toll bridges to allow customers from households with incomes up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level to apply for a one-time waiver of penalties on unpaid bridge toll crossings made between March 20, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2022 as long as the applicant pays the total amount of all outstanding tolls.
  • Prohibit toll agencies from charging an extra fee to customers who use cash to obtain a toll tag, add funds to their account, pay outstanding tolls or pay outstanding toll penalties.
  • Require toll agencies to maintain at least two retail locations in each county in which a toll facility operates where customers may use cash to add funds to their account, pay outstanding tolls or pay outstanding penalties.
  • Require toll agencies to maintain at least one in-person customer service location within its jurisdiction at which customers may obtain a toll tag, add funds to a toll account, pay any amount of outstanding tolls or penalties, and register or remove a vehicle from a toll account.
  • Establish minimum hours — including evening and weekend hours—for in-person and telephone customer service operations and the provision of language assistance for customers with limited proficiency in English as well as assistance for those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

As a condition of MTC’s support, Assemblymember Ting’s office agreed to make the following amendments to the bill:

  • An effective date of July 1, 2023 for the one-time waiver option to take effect. MTC agreed to work with Assemblymember Ting’s office on language to ensure communication materials will alert motorists to this option in advance of this effective date.
  • An end date of Sept. 30, 2024 for motorists to apply for the one-time toll penalty waiver.

AB 2594 will be heard in the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday, June 28.

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