On June 8th, Bay Area News Group publications ran a story by Eliyahu Kamisher, detailing the plan by the Bay Area Toll Authority Oversight Committee to authorize DMV liens on vehicle registrations for drivers with unpaid bridge tolls and late fees.
BayLegal attorneys Ocean Mottley and Rachel Hoerger, quoted in the story, point out the starkly disparate impact of this policy on our clients and other low-income Bay Area drivers. For these drivers, the loss of a vehicle can mean job loss and heightened economic insecurity. And for the significant number of Bay Area residents who shelter in their vehicles, it can mean the loss of a home as cars become subject to tow and impound (and further exorbitant and unfair fines and fees).
Low income drivers also face communication barriers that can cause a single unpaid toll to rack up large balances of late fees without their knowledge. Unpaid toll notifications are widely sent using contact information from FasTrak accounts, but drivers must be able to link to a bank account to use FasTrak, and this excludes many of the area’s lowest-income drivers. Notices are also sent by mail using DMV registration records, but these records are notoriously inconsistent, sometimes pointing to old addresses, or to vehicles no longer registered to the same owner. This gap in the notification system is a significant part of the reason that $50 million in unpaid Bay Area bridge tolls have accrued over $130 million in late payment penalties, with these additional fees falling disproportionately on those least able to pay.
- June 8, 2022: “$184 million in unpaid bridge tolls? Scores of Bay Area drivers face DMV liens under renewed crackdown,” Eliyahu Kamisher, Mercury News. (This story also appears in SiliconValley.com)
- June 9, 2022: “Haven’t paid your Bay Area bridge tolls? Your car registration could be blocked,” Michael Cabanatuan, San Francisco Chronicle
- June 9, 2022: “Bay Area Toll Authority to collect millions in unpaid tolls,” Kenny Choi, KPIX CBS Bay Area.
- June 9, 2022: “Millions of Dollars in Unpaid Bridge Tolls Reported in the Bay Area,” Christie Smith, KNTV NBC Bay Area