MTA not ready for congestion pricing toll complaint surge, IG says

The MTA is not ready to handle the influx of tolling complaints expected from congestion pricing, the authority’s inspector general suggested Monday.

Transportation Authority officials have done little to study the underlying causes of thousands of toll complaints and are playing catch-up to develop a “modern information system” by the start of Central Business District Tolling in 2023.

MTA Bridges and Tunnels “does not have a reliable way to detect systemic issues,” IG Carolyn Pokorny said. “This shortcoming puts the agency at risk of being ill-prepared to handle future CBD tolling complaints efficiently.”

IG staffers found several complaints originated with failure to accurately record license plates by the MTA’s contractor Conduent. Yet MTA management’s summary reports of complaints completely missed the prevalence of human error, the report said.

The MTA signed a new $246 million contract with Conduent earlier this year — but opted to keep the company out of its customer service operations.

Instead, customer service for MTA bridge and tunnel tolls will be handled through a $122 million contract with Faneuil. The MTA has also purchased software that will allow it to track and analyze all of the complaints it receives, according to its official response embedded in the IG report.

Pokorny said that MTA Bridges and Tunnels “does not have a reliable way to detect systemic issues.”
Getty Images/iStockphoto

“MTA Bridges and Tunnels’ current information system tracks customer complaints and requires extensive and time consuming manual effort,” MTA spokesman David Steckel said in a statement. “Accountability and transparency are crucial components of public trust and MTA Bridges and Tunnels is resourcefully improving existing processes to better monitor financial information that directly impacts customers.”

MTA officials have struggled to handle past spikes in tolling complaints. The introduction of cashless tolling across New York state spurred outrage when some motorists racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines — sometime unjustly — for failing to pay violations in time.

The MTA and tolling agencies across the country have faced lawsuits over the fines, which are sent to collections after just a few months of delinquency.

Pokorny claimed that the agency might be "ill prepared" to handle the complaints efficiently.
Pokorny claimed that the agency might be “ill prepared” to handle the complaints efficiently.
AP Photo/Ed Betz

Central Business District Tolling is currently undergoing an extensive environmental review, and is expected to launch no earlier than 2023.

Under the tolling program passed by the state legislature in 2019, drivers will be charged varying rates depending on time of day and vehicle type.

Officials have said tolls could range from $9 to $24 for passenger vehicles.