2005-06-24 / Front Page

EZ-Pass Zaps Drivers With Monthly Fee

  • In order to “maintain the high level of service,” and to “defray part of the administrative costs” in managing the EZ-Pass program, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has established a fee for using the accounts on local bridges and tunnels. Beginning next week, each EZ-Pass user will be charged a $1 a month administrative fee, according to a notice received by users in their monthly statements recently.
  • The new charge will impact Rockaway and Broad Channel residents, who now have free transit over the Cross Bay Bridge and who pay a reduced toll on the Gil Hodges – Marine Parkway Bridge. And the new charges have some Rockaway residents angry.

    “This added fee is just an increased toll that was put in place without any public hearings whatsoever,” says Dan Tubridy who now lives in Rockaway but lived in Broad Channel when he led the fight to get the toll removed from Rockaway and Broad Channel residents more than ten years ago. “In 1972, when the toll went to twenty-five cents, we began to get together to fight the tolls, he said. In 1974 the toll went to thirty-five cents and we had hundreds of people at a hearing to protest the rise and to get the toll removed. Now, we have no hearing, no people protesting. What we have is a midnight decision.”

    “What we have to do,” he added, “is get that coalition from 1974 together again. We have to bring back the revolution.”

    City Councilman Joseph Addabbo agrees.

    “First of all, it’s an oxymoron to talk about MTA and a high level of service in the same sentence,” Addabbo angrily told The Wave. “The agency continually raises fares and tolls, adds in charges, but we don’t get any added service for the money. Instead, we get worse service, deteriorating infrastructure and, in many cases, a reduction in services,” he said.

    “That doesn’t change when you slap a blue stripe on a the same bus you just took the green stripe off of and call it better service,” Addabbo said, referring to the recent MTA takeover of the private bus lines that impact Rockaway.

    “If this is really a toll increase,” Addabbo added, “Rockaway and Broad Channel residents shouldn’t have to pay it.”

    Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer said that she contacted the city’s Corporation Council about the fee.

    “The MTA says that it needs the administrative fees and that everybody does it,” she said.

    In fact, the MTA said in a notice to its EZ-Pass tag holders, “[The fee] is similar to what other EZ-Pass agencies charge their customers.”

    Pheffer says that the problem is one of “distrust” between the agency and the people it serves.

    “This is just another way of [the MTA] smiling and saying, why not?”

    “The problem could be that once the fee is added, it can go up to $2 a month next year and $5 a month the year after that with no oversight at all,” she added.

    Sources at the MTA say there are approximately 1.6 million EZ-Pass accounts in New York City. Of those, 18,000 are Rockaway and Broad Channel accounts. Those who live in the two communities, linked by the Cross Bay Bridge, do not have to pay a toll on that bridge only if they have an EZ-Pass account.

    Account holders will have to pay the monthly fee whether or not they actually use their tags in any given month.

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