Bay Area drivers will soon have to pay off $184 million in bridge toll debt

MTC’s Bay Area Toll Authority voted June 8 to begin releasing hundreds of thousands of toll violations to the DMV, which can then bar people from renewing their car registration until their tolls are paid.

According to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, 396,000 drivers owe between $22 and $88, 101,000 owe $110 to $418 and 13,000 will receive calls from collection agencies for more than $1,600. Many of these fines also come with late penalties.

At the start of the pandemic, the agency suspended its policy of forwarding unpaid violations to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. The MTC also removed toll collectors, requiring drivers to pay toll charges with either a FasTrak transponder or a bill sent to the address where their car registration is located. The recent ruling signals a return to pre-pandemic consequences for failing to pay to cross one of seven state-owned bridges in the Bay Area.

Proponents are concerned about the impact these plans will have on low-income communities that depend on their car for daily life.

“DMV holds a disproportionate impact on low-income people. They should not be used at all, Candy Smallwood, an attorney at the East Bay Community Law Center, said at the June 8 BATA meeting. “The DMV is forcing people to choose between breaking the law and getting to work or going to and from doctor’s appointments. DMV sees it as criminalizing poverty.

The agency sets out a means-tested payment plan for those earning up to 200% of the federal poverty level — about $27,000 a year per person, or $55,000 for a family of four — to stagger their payments. Critics of the plan have pointed out that these qualifications leave out a large number of people who are still struggling financially despite not meeting these criteria.

“I don’t even know how a family of four survives in the Bay Area on $55,000,” supervisor Hillary Ronen said at the June 8 meeting.
MTC sees the crackdown as a necessary way to recover the $50 million in tolls and $134 million in late fees owed by the public before the backlog of unpaid violations begins to expire in 2024.

“We are obligated to be a careful steward of a vital public good,” MTC spokesman John Goodwin told SFGATE. “We have an obligation to fund voter-approved projects that are funded with tolls.”

Goodwin expects the first notices of non-commercial infringement to be delivered to the DMV by January 2023. Until then, MTC will implement what Executive Director Therese McMillan described as “a public information campaign very aggressive” to inform people about low-income people. payment plan that they probably won’t qualify for.

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