T notes: Mass. may hire firm to pursue toll evaders

T notes: Mass. may hire firm to pursue toll evaders

Boston planning a dedicated bus lane

STATE TRANSPORTATION OFFICIALS are considering hiring a debt collection firm to go after unpaid tolls and fines incurred by residents of Connecticut and a handful of other states.

Stephen Collins, the state Transportation Department’s director of tolling, disclosed on Monday that Massachusetts was preparing to solicit bids from debt collectors during a presentation to the MassDOT board on the agency’s first year of experience with all-electronic tolling.

Collins said the all-electronic tolls, which debuted Oct. 28, 2016, have speeded up traffic, reduced congestion, and improved driver safety. He said 86 percent of drivers pay their tolls electronically using E-ZPass transponders, but the remaining 14 percent don’t use transponders and have to be tracked down via photographs taken of their license plates and then sent bills through the mail. CommonWealth reported on Friday that $32 million in unpaid tolls and late fees had been incurred as of Sept. 22.

Of that total, Collins said, 66 percent was incurred by residents of Massachusetts, 9 percent by residents of Connecticut, and 6 percent by New Yorkers. Residents of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Florida, and Pennsylvania each accounted for 2 percent, while residents of New Jersey, Maine, and Ontario each accounted for 1 percent.

Collins said he believes the Massachusetts residents will eventually pay up because the state has the capability of putting their license and registration renewals on hold until payment is made. Massachusetts has reciprocity agreements in place with New Hampshire and Maine to hold up renewals for drivers in those states until payments to Massachusetts are made. He said similar agreements are expected soon with New York and New Jersey and talks are ongoing with Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.

But Collins said the state has no reciprocity agreement in place with Connecticut, in part because Connecticut has no toll roads. Agreements are also not in place with Florida, Ontario, and most other states.

Collins said the state is considering hiring a debt collection firm to pursue the tolls of residents in those states where no reciprocity agreement is in place in a bid to recover more of the toll money the state is owed.

Boston planning dedicated lane for T buses

Vineet Gupta, director of planning for the Boston Transportation Department, said the city hopes to launch a dedicated lane for MBTA buses next spring on Washington Street between Roslindale Square and Forest Hills.

He cautioned that community outreach will begin next spring and, if that is successful, the city will move ahead with the dedicated bus lane. He said the city was also in the early stages of talks with state agencies on the possibility of a dedicated bus lane from North Station to the Seaport District.

Monica Tibbits-Nutt, a member of the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board, pounced on Gupta’s comments and pressed him on when the dedicated lanes would be ready. At a recent board meeting, she said she was tired of all the talk and lack of action on dedicated bus lanes. She said the T shouldn’t invest more money in buses until the agency comes up with a way to move buses through traffic more quickly. She called the lack of action on dedicated bus lanes by municipalities “shameful.”

City Point bus stop cost $500,000

MBTA General Manager Luis Rivera said the transit authority spent $500,000 installing new shelters, lighting, and security at a bus stop off of East First Street in the City Point section of South Boston.

The pricetag caught the attention of Monica Tibbits-Nutt of the Fiscal and Management Control Board, who questioned the figure. Jeffrey Gonneville, the deputy general manager, confirmed $500,000 was spent on the project. Tibbits-Nutt asked for a full accounting of the spending at the board’s next meeting.

Is N-S Rail Link still in the mix?

Officially, state transportation officials are still studying whether to expand South Station or build an underground rail link between North and South Stations. But the tone of many of their presentations suggests South Station expansion is the only approach they are seriously pursuing.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

On Monday, for example, a presentation to the MBTA’s Fiscal and Management Control Board on the so-called I-90 Allston Interchange said commuter rail layover space is needed there at a cost of at least $82 million to support “the future South Station expansion.”

Advocates of the North-South Rail Link, of course, say their project would allow the T to park commuter rail trains overnight virtually anywhere on the system and dispense with the need to tie up valuable space at prime real estate locations for commuter train parking lots.

  • Mhmjjj2012

    New Hampshire’s E-ZPass is set up so drivers can log on the website and pay the toll within seven days. There are signs all over the place about paying the toll in seven days online. There’s no fee. Even if you didn’t see the signs, just logging in to find out how to pay is easy. Also, New Hampshire kept at least one manned tollbooth for those who don’t want to go online. Both work to get the cash up front. That should be the goal. Massachusetts’ E-ZPass has a billing system. There’s no logging in and paying until you’re billed. The first time Massachusetts billed me was one or two weeks after I used the toll road. Then I had two or so hours to pay it. The second time I used a Mass toll road I was billed more than 3 weeks later and given almost a month to pay. It’s crazy that New Hampshire came up with a simple and cost effective approach for its E-ZPass while Massachusetts is now in the market for a debt collection firm…to collect $1 or $2 per driver.