Cashless tolls spur record sales of E-ZPass

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When the New York State Thruway Authority announced the toll plazas on Grand Island would be replaced with cashless tolls, Erie County Clerk Michael Kearns ordered 350 E-ZPass tags for 2018.

So far this year Kearns said his office has sold nearly twice that many, and more than 350 just in the month of April, “We are seeing a record amount of E-ZPasses flying off the shelf which is good for the county taxpayers. We get approximately $4.00 per E-ZPass.”

Since the Thruway Authority joined forces with the State Department of Motor Vehicles, E-ZPass sales have gone off the charts, but the anticipated convenience of E-ZPass and cashless tolls in Western New York is turning into a cruel nightmare for some drivers.

There seems to be a flaw in E-ZPass’s billing system, and it has been exacerbated by the cashless tolls on Grand Island. Tagholders that have contacted Call 4 Action feel they are being penalized, paying a steeper price, for having E-ZPass. 

Frank Lesneski has had E-ZPass for about a year, but said it took a terrible turn when cashless tolls were instituted in late March, “I do feel I am being penalized for having E-ZPass.  It is supposed to make it easier, not harder, and in my case it has made it harder.”

The Thruway Authority notified Frank Lesneski he had a negative balance of $16 in his E-ZPass account, but by the time he got the notice, the Thruway had piled penalties onto his account, and would not allow him to get caught up online, as he routinely does.

Lesneski drives from Niagara Falls to work in Cheektowaga, by way of Grand Island, every day, and gets a discounted toll of 28 cents, rather than paying the full dollar.

“Penalties every time you go through a toll.  So instead of 28 cents that I would normally pay for a toll, I am now paying $5.00 and 60 cents, or almost $6 per toll.”

Lesneski figures without E-ZPass, if he paid the full $1.00 every time he went through a Grand Island toll he would have shelled out about $60.  Instead he now owes the Thruway Authority nearly $500.

Absent the electronic message boards that were at the toll plazas, or even having a toll attendant to warn him of a problem, Frank says he did not know he owed so much in penalties until he got his bill.

“I used to get monthly emails, or emails that my account was low. I have not received an email from them in over two months.”

News 4 has contacted the New York State Thruway Authority about several similar billing discrepancies, and so far one of the E-ZPass tagholders got a refund after filing a written appeal. 

A spokesperson said, they are looking into these issues, however, as the Thruway Authority is encouraging drivers to buy E-ZPasses, these apparent flaws seem to be counterproductive.

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