Efforts to Collect Tolls and Fees Using License Plate Images and Law Firms (Follow-Up)

Issued Date
October 07, 2021
Metropolitan Transportation Authority - Bridges and Tunnels


To determine the extent of implementation of the eight recommendations included in our initial audit report, Efforts to Collect Tolls and Fees Using Images and Law Firms (Report 2017-S-70).

About the Program

The MTA is a public benefit corporation chartered by the New York State Legislature. TBTA, also known as MTA Bridges and Tunnels, is an MTA agency that operates seven toll bridges and two tunnels that interconnect parts of New York City. TBTA serves more than 329 million vehicles per year and carries more traffic than any other bridge or tunnel authority in the nation. Toll revenues from TBTA help subsidize MTA’s public transit services. TBTA’s total operating revenue for 2020 was approximately $1.669 billion. According to New York Codes, Rules and Regulations, Title 21, Section 1023.7, “No vehicle shall cross the bridges and tunnels without payment of the toll prescribed by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority at the regularly established places for collection of such tolls.”

Cashless tolling is used at all MTA tunnels and bridges. With cashless tolling, no one has to stop to pay tolls. Instead, all motorists simply drive through any lane they choose. There are three ways to pay with cashless tolling: 1) E-Z Pass, 2) Short Term Account, and 3) Tolls by Mail.

The Open Road Tolling in-lane toll collection system captures up to six images per vehicle (two front and four rear). The system selects the “best” front and rear images and sends them to the NY Customer Service Center system electronically, where they are reviewed to identify the license plate and state associated with the vehicle. If either of these cannot be identified, the image is “rejected.”

TBTA defines “leakage” or “rejected images” as unbillable transactions. These transactions are categorized according to technical reasons (image rejects – 14 different codes) and business reasons (no Department of Motor Vehicles [DMV] hits and no DMV agreement).

E-Z Pass violations that have unpaid tolls after the due date on the second violation notice are sent to a collection agency. Tolls by Mail violations that have unpaid tolls after the due date on the violation notice are also sent to the collection agency. The Top 200 list of violators from the Tolling Operations are assigned to the outside counsel.

Our initial audit found that TBTA did not maximize toll collection because license plate images could not always be processed, resulting in potential lost revenue of $2.4 million. Additionally, TBTA’s contracted law firms were not effective in collecting outstanding receivables from persistent toll violators.

Key Findings

We found that TBTA officials made progress in addressing the issues identified in our initial report. Of the eight recommendations, two were implemented, four were partially implemented, and two were not implemented.

Key Recommendation

Officials are given 30 days after the issuance of the follow-up review to provide information on any action planned to address the unresolved issues discussed in this review.

Carmen Maldonado

State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Carmen Maldonado
Phone: (212) 417-5200; Email: [email protected]
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236