MTA, PANYNJ, local and state law enforcement targeting toll dodgers

May 23, 2022
MTA B&T has recovered $43 million in tolls since toll booths were eliminated in 2017.

Motorists who use fake, obscured or covered license plates to avoid paying tolls in the New York City region are the targets of a collaborative effort between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Bridges and Tunnels (B&T), New York City Police Department, New York State Police, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) and New York City Sheriff’s Office. The partners have surged efforts to combat deliberate attempts to prevent tolling cameras from identifying license plates through increased enforcement and by sharing information and best practices to identify bad actors on the road.

“People who evade paying tolls on MTA bridges and tunnels are ripping off millions of New Yorkers who play by the rules,” said MTA Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. “Toll-dodging drivers cost the MTA an estimated $50 million every year – funding that could be reinvested in modernizing the transit system and our shared infrastructure. We’re working with city and state law enforcement agencies to crack down and make sure these selfish drivers pay.”

This coordinated law enforcement effort aims to not only crack down on the evasion of tolls through forged or obstructed license plates but to curtail motorists who use similar deceptive tactics to hide more serious crimes and to evade speed and red-light cameras across the region.

MTA B&T officers and New York State Police officers interdicted more than 1,300 vehicles in 2021 for persistent non-payment of tolls. Interdictions occur when a motorist, whose license plate has been flagged for repeatedly evading tolls, is pulled over. Officers will take possession of the vehicle and take the driver to a safe location off the bridge or out of the tunnel where arrangements can be made for alternative transportation.

Through this process, MTA B&T has recovered 93 percent of all tolls owed by recidivist toll scofflaws whose New York registrations were suspended. That equals $43 million since toll booths were decommissioned in 2017 and MTA B&T is pursuing the remainder.

MTA B&T in partnership with New York State Police issued more than 5,500 summonses in 2021 for license plate obstruction. New York summonses carry a fine of up to $300 plus an $88 court fee.

“Protecting toll revenue is one of our primary missions, crucial to the upkeep and improvements of our infrastructure and providing support to mass transit,” said President of MTA Bridges and Tunnels Daniel F. DeCrescenzo, Jr. “The efforts of our B&T officers and law enforcement partners are commendable. We are determined to continue to make progress against toll evasion through education and enforcement.”

MTA Bridges & Tunnels transitioned from the toll collection method of cash and coin via staffed tollbooths and gated E-ZPass lanes to gantry-based, cashless open road tolling in 2017. Tolls for any vehicles without E-ZPass tags are collected by matching license plate images with information from Departments of Motor Vehicles and then tolls by mail invoices are sent to the registered owners. This has helped reduce congestion, improve the environment and enhance motorist convenience and safety.

Drivers who persistently fail to pay their toll bills are subject to being pulled over for suspended registrations or exclusion order violations and having their car impounded by an authorized tow. In November 2021, the minimum fine for a knowingly obstructed license plate was increased from $25 to $50, and the maximum amount was raised from $200 to $300.

Since the MTA converted to cashless tolling, more than 36,000 summonses have been issued for fake, covered and obstructed license plates by MTA B&T officers and the New York State Police.

“Motorists that drive around the city with illegal license plates are a major public safety concern,” said NYPD Chief of Transportation Kim Y. Royster. “We have increased enforcement citywide and will continue to stop, tow and auction off these vehicles that are found to have obstructed or counterfeit plates. The NYPD will continue to work with our law enforcement partners and local district attorneys to ensure that each of these vehicles’ drivers is held accountable. Traffic safety is public safety.”

"Motorists with illegal plates are far more likely to commit other violations, such as driving without proper registration or insurance, thereby endangering law-abiding drivers, bikers, and pedestrians," said New York City Sheriff Anthony Miranda. "We are counting on drivers to do the right thing and obey the law. And we are coming down hard on con artists who make our city and state less safe with these counterfeit plates."

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