Some drivers who receive the FasTrak citations never use the toll lanes
Go to website for a video.
Thousands of Southern Californians have received notices for traffic violations they did not commit, an NBC4 I-Team investigation has discovered.
Larry Levine, of Van Nuys, has received four violations in the mail from Metro, the transit authority, claiming he was driving on the 110 Freeway FasTrak toll lanes without paying the toll. But Levine told NBC4 he has never even been on the 110 Freeway FasTrak lanes.
"Never," Levin said. "It's absolutely preposterous. There's obviously a problem somewhere in the system."
After Levine got his fourth bogus violation, he contacted the I-Team, which investigated. The I-Team found that Metro has mistakenly sent out perhaps thousands of incorrect violations, many to drivers who never use the toll lanes. The Orange County Transit Authority says its also sent out incorrect violations.
There are FasTrak toll lanes on the 110, 10 and 91 freeways, that allow drivers to glide past heavy traffic. To use the lanes, drivers must pay $40 to get a transponder for their cars, which records tolls that are then charged to an account.
Metro's traffic cameras snap images of every vehicle in the Fastrak lanes -- those without the transponder receive citations in the mail. But some who receive the citations never drive on the lanes.
Metro official Kathleen McCune said the problem appears to be that the freeways cameras occasionally make mistakes.
"Could be a misread of the plate," McCune said.
For example, McCune said the freeway cameras might mistakenly misread an "E" as an "F" or a "B" as an "8," and therefore send out a violation notice to the wrong driver.
"It could be mud on the plate, it could be dirty," McCune told NBC4.
One citation addressed to Larry Levine, who drives a white Acura, had his license plate on it, but a picture of a Metro bus. Another citation he received had a picture of a Ford Explorer SUV.
But Metro couldn"t explain another citation Levine got, picturing a new BMW with no license plate at all.
When asked how the camera can misread a plate when no plate is on the vehicle, McCune said, "I don't have an answer for you. I really don't. I mean, that's a mistake and we would like to correct it."
The NBC4 I-Team spoke with Tom Rubin, a former top Metro official who is now a private consultant. Rubin said he believes Metro mails out bogus violations "very frequently. But they should be caught in the review process, and obviously, the review process needs some work."
Metro said 1,700 drivers have contested Fastrak citations since the lanes went into operation one year ago and it has dismissed all 1,700 because it knows there are problems with its system.
So what do you do if you think you got one of these bogus violations in the mail? Metro said you should contest it. There are directions on the back of the violation notice how to do that.
Metro responds to NBC-4 ExpressLanes violation notice story
By Steve Hymon, November 26, 2013
The video segment (see article above) reports that some motorists in Southern California have received citations for failing to pay tolls in the ExpressLanes — even though they have never driven in the ExpressLanes. It appears that in some cases, cameras are misreading license plates and, therefore, the citations are sent to the wrong owner of a vehicle.
Metro is aware of 1,700 such errors among the 1.6 million violation notices that have been mailed to vehicle owners although KNBC says there were “thousands” without citing any basis for that number. There has been about 18.5 million trips on the ExpressLanes thus far, meaning the error rate appears to be about .1 percent. Metro has and will continue to work to refine software used in order to reduce erroneous violations.
Obviously, those kind of stats may not satisfy those who get violations, especially if more than once. “In all cases as soon as we learn of the error, we dismiss the violation,” says Metro. The public can always contact ExpressLanes directly through many outlets including www.metroexpresslanes.net, the ExpressLanes’ Facebook page, or at www.twitter.com/expresslanes.
Other ways to reach the ExpressLanes:
By phone, call call 511 and say “ExpressLanes.” If you live outside of Los Angeles, Orange or Ventura counties, please call (877) 224-6511. ExpressLanes walk-in centers:
Harbor Gateway FasTrak Walk In Center500 West 190th Street, Gardena, CA 90248
El Monte FasTrak Walk In Center 3501 Santa Anita Avenue, El Monte, CA 91731