As anyone who's ever forgotten to pay a toll bill or is capable of doing arithmetic knows, the eye-popping amounts owed by the North Texas Tollway Authority's top toll violators is mostly fees. As an example, take reigning scofflaw champion Melissa Martinez. To rack up the $153,046.47 she owed the agency as of May 3, she would have had to take the George Bush Turnpike from her home in Sachse down to its terminus at Interstate 20 somewhere in the ballpark of 16,000 times.
The absurdity of those fees is one of the many, many reasons it's so easy to bag on the NTTA. Typically, such criticism is met by the agency with threats to start impounding cars. This time, the agency has listened and is taking positive steps.
The NTTA announced today that it will revamp its system of administrative fees so that habitual toll violators will owe dramatically less than they would under the current system, which charges $8 on the first notice of nonpayment and, on the second, $6.60 for each trip down a tollway.
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The new fees: $10 for the first notice, $25 for the second, and $29 if it's sent to collections.
This means that those well-intentioned folks whose toll bill gets lost in the mail will pay a bit more. But those absurd, six-figure fees will be slightly less absurd. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram gives the hypothetical example of a driver who takes 120 trips on NTTA roads without paying. Under the old system, he'd owe $1,109.70. Under the new regime, it's $425.50.
Try not to be too grateful, which would be a bit like thanking the executioner for being gentle with the needle. The NTTA is simply swapping one stick (fees) for another (blocking vehicle registrations).