FasTrak Incorrectly Charges Millions of Drivers and Does Not Care

The picture above is California Highway sign is from the quarterly Metro Transportation Commission report. I have personally never seen the digital sign mention the Flex Fastrak transponder. You will see below the large highway sign a tiny 2 foot tall by one-foot wide sign. The bottom half of that sign mentions that Flex Fastrack and 2+ people are needed for toll-free commuting. FasTrak has what appears to be intentionally bad communication about Flex Fastrak in order to collect millions in additional tolls. If FasTrak cared about not incorrectly charging drivers they would have replaced Fastrak with Flex Fastrak for all drivers in California.

Highlights

* February, 2019 there were errors in the system where people with Flex were incorrectly still charged tolls. Drivers must call Fastrak this months to get those charges dropped * Old FasTrak is useless. All California drivers should switch to Flex Fastrak and have it set to position 3 * MTC should replace Fastrak with Flex Fastrak instead of requiring drivers to request Flex device * Fastrak will not reverse charges more than a month old * Five years ago, Fastrak admitted to an error of less than 1%. There are about 1 million cars every month using commuter lanes. This means 1000 errors per day. * Fastrak tested the technology to detect the number of passengers in a car. They are only considering to use this technology to catch more toll cheaters and not for preventing unfair charges to those who are commuting with 2+. * About $3-6 million per year in toll charges to drivers with 2+ commuters but without Flex Fastrak. This amount will increase over the next few years with more toll express lanes.

Details

For decades, California drivers have been able to use commuter lanes on an honor system combined with police ticketing. This is still the case over the vast majority of highways. However, there are about ten sections of toll commuter lanes. If you do not have the Flex version of the Fastrak transponder then tolls would always be charged. The old Fastrak transponder is only useful to prevent $25 tickets. Over the next few years, there will be an expansion of toll charging commuter lanes to nearly all major highways in the SF Bay Area and Los Angeles. There will not be an inadequate communication to drivers. Most drivers who use highways without the tolls have not switched to Flex Fastrak. The I680 opened with a toll on the commute lane. From Oct, 2017 to March, 2019 about $4.2 million in tolls were collected. I believe 10-20% of those tolls are from people mistakenly believing they are getting free tolls when they do not unless they have a flex fastrak and have it set to 3. The I580 and other roads are making $10 million in tolls per year. $32 million in total tolls with a likely 10-20% of those from people with FasTrak and not Flex. There were notifications in 2015 in the local newspapers and TV news. There are no reminders with the regular mailings of bills. FasTrak should have sent Flex to everyone with a regular Fastrak in the I680 and I580 and I237 corridors. They converted the Fastrak to Fastrak Flex. Fastrak is useless for getting free tolls for commute lanes. In 2018, there was testing of cameras that could detect how many passengers are in a car. The three companies MTC has contracted with for the tests are Conduent (formerly Xerox), Transcor and Indra. The systems will be tested along the same stretch of freeway in consecutive months. Rentschler said all the companies boast accuracy rates greater than 95 percent in use elsewhere. The systems employ a variety of tools to enable them to look inside vehicles, even through dark-tinted windshields, to count passengers. They include standard and infrared cameras that can detect human skin, systems that illuminate images to make them easier to read and geometric algorithms. MTC only is focused on using the technology so that they can charge $490 fines on cars with one person in the car using the commuter lane. SOURCES- MTC Quarterly report, Personal experience with Fastrak
Many of the Single-Occupant vehicles are high-occupant vehicles without FlexFastrak.
Written By Brian Wang

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