More and more, paying road and bridge tolls is an electronic process, like those overhead collection wires near the Grand Island Bridge. So is the process when something goes wrong. The New York State Thruway Authority is now trying to resolve problems with people...real people.
On Thursday, the authority started a new system of people solving problems at tables in the Welcome Center on Grand Island, just off Exit 19. These problemsolvers will be available 3 p.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursday.
A sample of those who showed up said the staffers at the Cashless Tolling Customer Assistance Sessions were able to understand the issues and resolve most of them. Madison Dias is both a Grand Island resident and a driver dealing with the electronic systems.
"All the late fees merged, over $200, and they say they won't refund you, but they will credit the account, which we won't hit that number in tolls and I calculate it as about three years," Dias said. "So I don't want over $200 on hold."
Dias said the problem appears resolved. She does not see why Grand Island residents should pay a toll, arguing past tolls had long since paid for the bridges and she sees this as just a way to funnel money toward New York City.
Niagara Falls resident Jackie Clay said she went through the wrong line and into the system.
"I went through E-ZPass with the toll ticket in my hand, with the money in my hand, and didn't realize I went through the E-ZPass lane," Clay said. "So I ended getting an $18.50 violation. Then they raised it to $68.35 for a $0.90 toll."
After the workers took her case through the process, Clay paid $5.90 on the spot.
Gail Nealy was there because of toll problems during her tourist visit to the area from home base near Atlanta. Nealy said the initial response was a message to call a special phone number, which did not help.
"When we did that and then it sends a text that sends you someplace else which is a website," Nealy said. "When we got to the website and put in our tag numbers, our license plate numbers, and it says it did not find the plate number."
The computer system did not register the problem of allegedly not paying a toll through the cashless system, so the workers could not do resolve this problem.
In May, the authority did a similar event. Executive Director Matt Driscoll watched and listened as problems surfaced and employees tried to resolve them. Around 100 people showed up that one afternoon.