NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Drivers using toll tags at DFW Airport have already suffered delays at the exit plazas due to a new computer system; now some have found they have also been overcharged for the experience.
DFW calls the stopping points ‘entry plazas’ and not toll plazas because DFW International Parkway, where the plazas are located, is not a toll road. Traffic has to stop, even with toll tags. And we’re finding out human nature can confound even the best laid plans of a computer program.
Just because there’s a toll tag lane doesn’t mean you can breeze through at highway speeds. With the new system, everyone has to stop. One driver who doesn’t want to be identified says the new system, which debuted September 4, took drivers by surprise. “Whenever it first started the implementation it took about 30 minutes and we had long lines, so we had people very, very irate.”
The hangup is because the new readers do much more than the old ones, which mostly verified the tag itself, according to DFW Airport spokesman Dave Magana. “It’s designed to read it, to calculate the total that you have accrued and it’s also looking for toll tag fraud.”
So, drivers used to flashing through a toll booth find that at the DFW exit plazas they have to stop, sometimes for as long as eight seconds. And if they jump through it before everything registers as a proper exit, the computer just holds its data until the next time — even days later. Bill Woster made two trips to the airport a week apart; but the computer read it as though he never left, and he received a bill for $108. “I was shocked, I was like, “‘What’s going on?'”
Magana says the airport is working through credit card companies to get refunds immediately. “We’re working to refund everyone’s money as quickly as we can.” Magana says the plazas can’t be fully automatic because some drivers need cash transactions or receipts for business expenses. “You can’t have a plaza that has full stop customers right next to 70 mph customers. From a safety perspective it doesn’t work.”
Meantime, drivers are urged to be patient at toll tag exits and take the advice of the unidentified driver we spoke to. “They want you to get up close to that bar so your toll tag can get read and you can go on. It helps to speed things along.”
Of course, the problem also means that drivers occasionally have not gotten charged at all. But Magana says even then, some of them contact him to pay because they need receipts for their expense reports.
The North Texas Tollway Authority is not part of the issue, even though it issues toll tags across the area. In this case it does nothing but coordinate DFW’s billing. The airport is working to add license plate readers to help resolve claims of excessive billing.
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