E-ZPass' dirty little secret: Millions charged cash rate

TRENTON, New Jersey (WABC) -- A new study finds that drivers with E-ZPass tags issued by non-New York-based agencies are being charged the cash rate at New York bridges and tunnels run by the MTA, instead of receiving the E-ZPass discount.

The study by the AAA Northeast, dubbed "E-ZPass' Dirty Little Secret," found that from 2012 to 2016, more than 92 million out-of-town E-ZPass users were charged the cash rate. The overwhelming majority of those drivers - 70 million - came from neighboring New Jersey.

AAA has notified the MTA and federal transportation officials about their findings and has asked the government to review the practice.

An MTA spokesman confirmed the discounts are available to those whose E-ZPass tags are issued by New York, adding that all drivers can obtain such tags regardless of the state they live in.

According to AAA, drivers with a transponder issued by an out-of-state agency are charged the $8.50 cash rate at the RFK, Throgs Neck and Bronx Whitestone Bridges and the Hugh Carey (Brooklyn Battery) and Queens Midtown tunnels rather than receiving the $5.76 E-ZPass discount.

The situation is worse at the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, where AAA found the out-of-town E-ZPass/cash rate (or license plate rate at the newly cashless facility) is $17, versus $11.52 for an MTA E-ZPass.

Similar disparities exist at the three other smaller New York City bridges.

"Public authorities created E-ZPass with the promise of reducing traffic, cutting pollution and discounted user rates," said Robert Sinclair, Jr., manager of media relations for AAA Northeast. "Part of that promise is broken for millions of drivers."

The agency reports that eight other state toll agencies engaged in similar toll practices. A higher cash rate is charged out-of-towners using the New Jersey Turnpike (at off-peak times), toll roads in New Hampshire and West Virginia, Rhode Island's Newport Pell Bridge, the Maine Turnpike, the Illinois Tollway and all the tolled facilities in Maryland. Massachusetts gives a small discount to E-ZPass out-of-towners.

To its credit, the Port Authority charges all E-ZPass users a discounted rate.
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