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The Bay Area Toll Authority will try to collect more than $180 million in unpaid bridge tolls. About $50 million comes from unpaid tolls and $130 in late fees, after its Oversight Committee voted Wednesday to crack down on more than 400,000 drivers. 

The plan is approved and people with outstanding fees to their name are expected to receive notices in the mail soon.

Low-income communities are worried about the fees. State Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, said in a statement Thursday that Bay Area drivers should not be penalized because BATA chose to remove their operators from the tolls at Bay Area bridges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Assemblyman Phil Ting addresses lawmakers at the state Capitol on May 26. (Photo by Rich Pedroncelli/AP, via CalMatters)

“The Bay Area Toll Authority should have identified these drivers sooner to provide earlier notice and create payment plan options…the switch to using technology to pay tolls has disproportionately impacted drivers who don’t have debit or credit cards. Now many drivers who rely on their vehicles for work or to bring their kids to school may face not being able to renew their DMV registrations,” Ting said. 

Ting said he is glad to see that BATA plans to use elements from his Assembly Bill 2594, which allows low-income communities to set up payment plans. But he urges BATA to adopt other reforms in the bill to ensure Bay Area drivers can be treated “fairly and equitably.”

After toll collectors were removed from the bridges, drivers could pay either electronically with a FasTrak toll tag, a one-time online payment process, or receive a notice by mail if they don’t have a transponder. However, the system didn’t account for notices that were lost in the mail or sent to the wrong address, according to Ting’s office.

The experience of driving through the toll plaza on any of the Bay Area’s bridges will be forever changed beginning Jan. 1, when cash is no longer used and all-electronic toll collection begins. (Photo by Thomas Sommeregger/Flickr)

Ting also calls on express lane and toll roads agencies to offer a cash payment option, cap fines and late fees, establish payment plans for both fines and penalties and set a minimum time period to pay fines before car registration is suspended for nonpayment. 

He said the DMV must notify people to change the address on their vehicle registration for their driver’s license. Consequently, car rental agencies would be required to provide customers with information about toll agencies’ charges and payment options, Ting said.