Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Don’t panic! What to do if you get a civil penalty on #405ETL

By Ethan Bergerson

It's hard to believe it's already been more than three months since the first toll bills were mailed for the I-405 express toll lanes. If you still have a toll bill sitting in your to-do pile, please be sure to make your payment before it becomes a Notice of Civil Penalty of $40 per toll trip. Hopefully this doesn't happen to you, but if it does, here are some tips to reduce your bill:

It's not too late to lower your bill
  • Know you have an unpaid toll? Don't wait to receive a late fee, pay your bill at MyGoodToGo.com, by mail, or over the phone.
  • Save money with a Good To Go! account. Open a Good To Go! account to pay a lower toll rate and avoid future bills in the mail. Call us to open an account, and be sure to ask the agent to add unpaid tolls to your account via Pay By Plate. You can save up to $1.75 per toll.
  • Good news if you receive a late fee or civil penalty.This past summer we introduced a new customer service policy offering first-time forgiveness of penalties. If this is your first time receiving a civil penalty for unpaid tolls you can request a one-time waiver of all unpaid late fees and penalties as long as you pay the original tolls. Most penalties can now be removed by the first customer service representative you speak with, and you can dispute any part of the toll bill that you feel you are not responsible for due to mitigating circumstances.

Call 1-866-936-8246 or visit one of the customer centers in Bellevue, the University District or Gig Harbor to request that your civil penalty be waived. Calling is the fastest way to reduce your bill and the best option if you are unsure why you got a penalty. Wait times are shortest on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings.


The goal is to give our front line customer service representatives more flexibility to help drivers who have been caught off guard by toll penalties. We will work with you to resolve any billing issues so you can avoid penalties in the future.

Over 30,000 vehicle owners have had their civil penalties and fees waived. We've dismissed more than $11.5 million in civil penalties and late fees. Of course, for most customers this never comes up – only about 2 percent of trips result in a civil penalty.

Call us if you were caught off-guard by changes to the I-405 express toll lanes
If you didn't know the new rules for carpools on I-405, you can still call customer service and we'll waive your first Pay By Mail toll bill. If you ordered a Flex Pass online, you can also request a credit for carpool trips made while you were waiting for it to arrive. To avoid getting charged as a carpool on I-405 in future, you'll need to get a Good To Go! account with a Flex Pass set to HOV mode and the right number of occupants. If you carpool at least once a week on I-405, you can still request a free Flex Pass until March, 2016.

Motorcyclists who receive toll bills on the I-405 express toll lanes may also email us to ask for their bill to be waived. Motorcyclists need to install a motorcycle pass to avoid a toll bill, and can still request a free pass if they ride on I-405. If a pass is installed and you receive a bill, let us know right away so we can determine the cause, check your pass, and correct the bill. If you choose not to install a pass, a toll bill will be issued for your trips on I-405 express toll lanes, and you will need to contact us to avoid a civil penalty.

32 comments:

Helena said...

These toll lanes have been the biggest mistake in transportation history and has made traffic much much worse. These tolls are designed as a money grab and WSDOT has no intention of making traffic any better. Everyone would be better off if the extortion toll lanes were suspended ASAP. The new and improved configuration would be 4 general purpose lanes and 1 HOV lane. Let's hope representatives Harmsworth and Andy Hill fix this failure of a project and we all can put this behind us once and for all.

Mark Bauer said...

Thanks I get home much quicker now!

WSDOT said...

We are happy to hear that, Mark!

Jeff Gray said...

Know what else is hard to believe? The fact that you still think this system isn't a complete and utter failure. During my daily 20 minute wait to get down the ramp from 520 to 405N (something that never occurred prior to the Extortion Toll Lanes)I have ample time to observe the empty ETLs that are causing this massive backup. After that, I plunge right into yet another parking lot (the GP lanes) for the hour plus crawl up to Alderwood. Do we even need to go into the weekend/evening traffic nightmares this debacle has caused?

W$DOT and the lawmakers that enacted this need to be defunded/impeached/recalled/prosecuted for forcing this disaster on 405 commuters.

Oh, and by the way Mark, almost 30k people disagree with you according to the latest petition numbers, but it always cracks me up to see W$DOT jump on the one positive comment out of the thousands of negatives like a starving dog on a pork chop. Hahaha, pathetic!

WSDOT said...

Jeff, we try to respond to all comments on our blog posts – positive or negative. Many drivers have noticed positive effects on their commutes and we don’t want their comments to go unnoticed.

MBAUOP said...

I am wondering why WSDOT is not publishing the fees they charged for each interval in the past. I expect the public should have access to the fees that were charged in the past. How can I be sure they are charging what they show? Especially with the 1 week – or more – delay the accounts are updated. That information should be published! I was charged some odd fees ($0.77, $2.77, $1.07...) for some of my travels and I am certain that were not the fees displayed on the road. This confirms 100% that WSDOT can and did charge me fees that are not the same as the ones displayed on the road at the time of my travels. How can we be sure we are really charged the fee shown, when those fees are not published? Trust? I’m not sure WSDOT is worthy of it. Why? I think the system is rigged to charge more than it's necessary to keep the 45 miles flow; sometimes the fee at the ETL entrance is $4+ and the lanes are almost empty, going even as much as 80 mph, even the GP lanes are flowing fast...Clearly ETLs reduced my commute time to some degree, but I feel it is too expensive and some people are getting too much of my money for nothing.

WSDOT said...

MBAUOP, if you have questions about what you are being charged, we encourage you to check out your Good To Go! account to make sure trips are being accurately billed. From December 17th to December 25th, 2015, the system charged some WSDOT customers a default toll rate different than the toll rate that customers should have been charged. Once the issue was detected, Schneider Electric took immediate action to correct it. WSDOT ultimately only charged affected drivers the minimum toll rate ($0.75) to correct this error. We continue to encourage customers with billing concerns to contact Good To Go! customer service.

Vince R said...

WSDOT.... can you post how much money has been collected and how much of that money went to WA for our roads?

Also, is there a status on getting the traffic flow data for the GPL/GPS updated? I have not seen a reply to those posts yet.

AGN Baxter said...

How nice I live in Wenatchee AND YES WASHINGTON. I was so happy to be able to take my family to a seahawk game with four in my family taking the carpool lane would not be a problem. Came home a week later and a nether boness from the friendly ( western Washington) so nice to visit the other side. Maybe California has a team to watch. They have to be more visitor friendly than the Seattle area. You can keep your side the state. how about you just charge us to breathe.

Vince R said...

I know this might seem like a hard question, but with all the electronic processing that is going on, it should be easy right. Unless I am missing something...

How much money has been collected in 2015 as a result of Good-to-Go (including all fees)?
How much of that money will be spent on our roads (ideally 405 and not some general slush fund)?

Total collected - total going to roads = overhead

Overhead gives us an idea of the efficiency of the system and efficiency is a strong indication of how well business, programs, projects and such are being operated. Knowing the efficiency, at least for me, it will help me understand, in real time, how much cash is going into our budget. I will be able to look at $10 on the toll sign and understand the benefit we will see from each car paying that fee.

(1 - (overhead/total collected) ) * 100 = percent of each dollar collected going towards our roads

Now that we have 3 months of usage, this data will help clarify some of the information being published in regards to Good-to-Go, and will provide current insight into one of the selling points of the program, instead of the 'wait 6 months' and 'trust us'.

This data should be very easy to report unless... there is something to hide. Unless it was incorrectly built, a system for processing money will have auditable reporting capabilities for accounting.

Vince R said...

From Andy Hill:

Thank you for sharing your concerns and frustrations with the I-405 HOT lanes.

As many of you are aware I have recently sponsored legislation that will address some of the issues that I have heard from you. If passed Senate Bill 6152 will make several changes to the current lanes.

Tolls would no longer be charged between 7pm and 5am or on state holidays.
The number of toll lanes would be decrease to one lane in each direction.
The double white lines would be removed in areas where safety is not a concern.

On Thursday January 14th the Senate Transportation Committee will have a public hearing regarding this bill, it will be held in the John A. Cherberg Building hearing room one. The meeting will begin at 3:30. I will be at the hearing in order to testify and show my support for this bill and voice the concerns that I have heard from you. If you are interested in coming down to Olympia to share your personal experiences I would encourage you to do so, it is a great way for you to have your voice heard by other legislators.

Thanks again for reaching out to me regarding this issue.

Best Regards,

Andy Hill
Senator, 45th Legislative District
Duvall, Kirkland, Redmond, Sammamish and Woodinville

WSDOT said...

AGN Baxter, if you didn’t know about the express toll lanes and received a toll bill for using them, you can call Good To Go! customer service to have your first-time toll bill waived. Customer service reps are available by phone at 866-936-8246.

Cu Bong said...

WSDOT
-Do you happen to have any plans to improve the flow of ETLs from north of 405 Sr-522 to Lynwood in both directions. will you share with public about any plans to fix the messes of these stretches
- WSDOT had years to study and plans for ETLs. But it does not need an engineer level to tell that the ETLs is not going to work well since the bottleneck ( right after North of 405 SR-522 ( the 3 lanes overpass SR-522)wasn't consider to widen it out .
-WSDOT toll the publics to patience and changes will be made, however over 3 months now, can WSDOT share us any changes ? we have not noticed any
- Do we need to have the idea of weaves lanes from exit/entry point SR-520 and SR--522, I don't want to be rude but the engineering designed on this idea is needed to question his/her knowledge
- why WSDOT implements the ETLs but never thought about the bottleneck possibility from 5 lanes to 3 lanes ( north bound) , and from 3 lanes t0 5 lanes ( south bound)
-those engineers involved in this project need to hold accountability for failing designed and prediction the impacts after ETLs are open.
-most people benefits the ETLs are those drivers travel short distance from Kirkland to Bellevue , but those drives from Everest to Bellevue are suffering of those engineers didn't care whatever happen after north of SR-522.
- 155 millions are funded for widen I 405 from Bellevue to Lynwood , but SR-522 over pass is still only has 3 lanes NO shoulder , where did the money went, this bottleneck is a must priority widen not to use wide-open in Kirkland area ( 5 lanes
- Kirkland area is wide-open....but overpass SR-522 is too narrow, we have no idea what WSDOT were thinking ...
Please public your studies, plans and data.... thank you
-

WSDOT said...

Cu Bong, if you are interested in looking at our future plans for the I-405 corridor, check out our Master Plan here: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/NR/rdonlyres/2989FAB9-13E6-401D-BA4B-61A19730638F/0/I405_masterplan.pdf. Take a look at our traffic data published here: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/Tolling/405/trafficdata.htm.

Vince R said...

I have looked at the travel time data and still have a disconnect for some reason.

The problem solver in me would like to know why I am still experiencing longer delays when the data says its faster. I am wondering if this might also be the reason that I can look at the WSDOT traffic page (in real time) and see its shows green (and sometimes yellow) when the traffic is stopped.

Is there some documentation or raw data that can be looked at to see why WSDOT shows traffic improvements... but while sitting in the car, it sure doesn't match what I see on-line for the same time.


For example, the GPL data for October shows a 33% improvement, while sitting in the traffic looks like its not better, but worse. (from this data: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/NR/rdonlyres/4335C3D2-70D3-462A-9577-C9556B4F9754/0/405ETLOneMonthMediaEventOctoberSB.pdf)

So I am wondering if maybe the statistics and the incorrect traffic reporting on the WSDOT page might be related to the same issue.

Vince R said...

The 'master plan' document is a little sparse on details, like when it was published, where to go for more information, how much has been done.

For example, it says that 2 more lanes will be added in each direction. Is that work that is still coming? Is that for the entire highway? Will those be GPLs?

Could you provide a link to the place where people can look at the 150 projects, their status, their impact, etc?

Cu Bong said...

The master plan was public on Jan-24-2005, it printed down left bottom of paper.
11 years after the master plan was designed.
over the 11 years, what WSDOT have accomplished ? nothing except messy and weird designed ETLs and 5 lanes just came true for the stretches from SR-520 to SR-522..., From SR-522 to north ( Lynwood) there is still 3 lanes,
The north of I-405 after SR-522 ( overpass) is just 3 lanes, and this is supposed to be upgrade to widen it, this 3 lanes ( over pass) is pushing the ETLs idea to be more terrible failed idea because WSDOT failed to predict or know it but ignored it.
I am asking WSDOT to let publics know what WSDOT is going to make changes along ETLs to have better flow
I am driving on this ETLs twice a day, notice every yards of these freeway.
I deserve to have a better response form WSDOT rather than just some old...documents and old data.
THANK YOU

Vince R said...

I don't agree with WSDOT having done nothing over the last 11 years.

Here are a few things that are definitely moving:
* The 'under construction' 520 toll bridge is well underway.
* More entrances/exit points for mass transit on 405 / 5
* Repairs to failing expansion joints
* Good-to-Go
* Keeping the roads maintained
* The new I-405 N to HWY 522 interchange
* The new I-405 N to HWY 520 E/W interchange
* Additional (but not nearly enough) Park-and-Ride parking expansion
* Work to create a per-mile-tolling system for WA residents
* Proposals to toll I-90 and several more major roads/highways in WA
* A huge number of 'traffic cameras' have been installed
* Information signs on major travel routes
* WSDOT traffic feeds (even if the 405 data now is bad)
* etc.

We like to remember only the negative stuff, like Good-to-Go's impact on the average driver on 405. In my opinion, improving the roads in the Seattle/Bellevue metropolitan area are constrained by topological/geographical, political and historical challenges.

Additionally, when the truly difficult congestion issues are raised, like the I-5 area under the Seattle Convention Center, are raised, we don't see any plans to fix them... ever.

Fixing our congestion problems can only be answered by one of two ways:
1. Increase throughput in problem areas
2. Reduce demand in problem areas

We are quick to identify when projects don't go as planned... and rightly so. The day that 'Good-to-Go' was turned on, traffic problems got worse, at least for me and all those I can visually confirm are setting in the traffic jams around me.

When I asked WSDOT (via email) about GTG, the answer I had was that the 'legislature' was using tolling to encourage commuters to effectively use our roads. That approach works for some people. For others it is absurd and completely out-of-touch. Here is a quote from that email:

“The legislature finds and declares that it is the policy of the state of Washington to use tolling to provide a source of transportation funding and to encourage effective use of the transportation system.”

Another point that was made was that we just needed to be taught that this was the right way... apparently it was not obvious. Maybe it was the negative reinforcement of sitting in traffic, or paying to get out of it, that made me blind to the advantages of GTG.

Another quote:
"The education process is necessary in order to convey the benefits of a new system to the public as well as to inform them of the necessary steps to prepare for these changes. Without public education, the express toll lanes cannot be properly introduced to the public as an efficient solution to the ongoing problem of I-405 congestion and a growing population in the Puget Sound area."

Side note, the term 'without public education' really just screams of the worst kinds of Orwellian government projects. "This one isn't thinking right... off to the reeducation facility for you." Couple that with video surveillance cameras at every stop light and you have to wonder where all this is heading. No kidding, I saw one intersection with 16 cameras in Lynnwood by Fred Meyers. Do we really need 16 cameras in one intersection..really... but I digress.

Again, in my opinion, the reason so many people are annoyed with the 'Good-to-Go' project is that it has made the lives some commuters better, while negatively impacting so many others.

So I enjoy using the roads we pay for. I do believe that WSDOT has been busy. I do see improvements. I don't think GTG was one of them. Show me 'fixing real congestion issues' over 'selling them the rich people lanes' and I will support your efforts more.

WSDOT said...

Vince, I'm sure you've heard this before, but the express toll lanes provide a choice to drivers. No one is forced to use the lanes, and the ETL system has proved a successful strategy in other parts of the country. In time, we will see how the lanes improve congestion along the corridor overall, but it is too soon to draw absolute conclusions without giving the system adequate time to work as it was designed. WSDOT is working to address these congestion issues in the state, and we appreciate your acknowledgement of that hard work.

WSDOT said...

Vince, in response to your January 8, 2016, 8:16 PM comment, we will be posting the first I-405 financial statement next month, like we post for all of our other toll facilities. As you have probably already heard, this week we posted a map that provides traffic flow information as well as toll rates for the I-405 express toll lanes.

Vince R said...

@wsdot - Thanks for the reply. I had not seen the new map and there is no link to it from the old map, but it exactly shows the problem areas I just spent an hour driving through.

So now the question is if you are getting that data and it shows the congestion problems... why is it the map at http://www.wsdot.com/traffic/seattle/default.aspx is usually off... and likewise the data my GPS is getting no longer shows the live traffic data that I used to get just before Good-To-Go went into effect.

Maybe I am missing something here. There is a difference in data between http://wsdot.com/traffic/seattle/flowmaps/I-405Toll.aspx and http://www.wsdot.com/traffic/seattle/default.aspx. For example, as I write this, the data for 405N by 85th shows red on one map and yellow on the other.

It would be great if the data that used to get fed to the GPS units has a live traffic feed again that give the GPL data since that is what most people are stuck with. That lets me route the 'fastest route based on traffic data' feature that worked prior to GTG...

1dc5aaf4-a834-11e5-91a1-471520604c07 said...

Today the Northbound lanes had prices to get to NE 124th Street and 522, but the third price was listed as "Open".

Did that mean that to go from 522 to Lynnwood was free for all? Why was there no charge?

Thank you!

WSDOT said...

The toll rate data map is not intended to be real-time, Vince. The toll rates displayed on that map can take about 5 minutes to update, so it should be used as a tool to give drivers an idea of what traffic conditions are like before they make the decision to use the ETLs.

WSDOT said...

Yep! When the toll rate is listed as "open," all drivers are able to use the lanes toll-free. For future reference, check out our blog post on navigating collisions in the I-405 express toll lanes: http://wsdotblog.blogspot.com/2015/10/how-to-navigate-collisions-blocking-i.html.

Vince R said...

Then that brings me back to the question of why the data feed for GPS stopped providing me data that lets me know when the GPL lanes are backed up.

I would think that if the goal to reduce congestion is as important as it should be, something simple like getting that data into the hands of commuters so they can make real time driving decisions would be important. Each person that knows the congestion is there and has the technology to use the data, could in theory divert their commute from the congested route.... if they had good data.

This isn't a matter of the data being a little bad that my GPS is getting... its showing green and sending me into horrible congestion... something I used to be able to avoid... so its like a triple whammy:

First, the two person car pool lane is no longer free (when we would normally use them)...
Second, the GPLs that I have to take are much worse than they used to be (since GTG went in)...
Third, I no longer have the data to make informed decisions to avoid the congestion....

Vince R said...

Suggestion: Instead of using the ambiguous term open.... consider using the word "free".

brian lane said...

Still have not received a bill. Just getting the "runaround" by a customer service rep. They state I need a "Notice Number"...Since I HAVE NEVER received a bill, I DO NOT HAVE a notice number. I just filed a complaint with my state representative. The billing system is set up to collect late fees and borders illegal and at the very least unethical behavior by the state.

WHY ISN'T THERE A SYSTEM IN PLACE TO PAY BY CREDIT CARD ONLINE? I DON'T HAVE A GOOD TO GO ACCOUNT.

WSDOT said...

Hi Brian, sorry to hear you’re having trouble paying a toll bill. Good To Go! Customer service should be able to look up a bill based on your license plate, but sometimes it takes up to a couple weeks for a toll charge to be processed in the system. We suggest you wait to pay your bill until you’ve received notice in the mail. Our new customer service policy exists so that drivers can easily get forgiveness of any civil penalties that arise. Again, we apologize for the inconvenience. Please let us know if you have further questions or concerns by emailing or calling.

good2goFY said...

What about the people who had to pay unconscionable "civil penalties" (to a "private company") *before* you got sued?

Why does it take multiple class action lawsuits to make you do the right thing, i.e. to make you stop defrauding the community you allegedly govern?

I hope everyone remembers ALL of this the next time these people show up on a ballot asking for your money.

WSDOT said...

@good2goFY - We made these changes in order to make Good To Go! work better for our customers in the future. This policy is for unpaid civil penalties and does not apply to fees that were paid prior to the start of the program. Whenever any rule or regulation changes, there is always an effective date. We started the program as soon as we were able to. Before the program could begin, we worked closely with the 2015 Legislature to ensure the new resolution program worked within the provisions of the new toll customer service law.

We understand how upsetting it must be to pay off your civil penalties only to learn about the changes to the toll enforcement program. So, if you previously disputed a penalty and were not satisfied with our judgment, you can now ask for an administrative law judge to reconsider the decision based on mitigating circumstances. This option is intended for those who have additional evidence to present or who feel that there is another valid interpretation of the facts of their case than that of their original judgment. More info: http://1.usa.gov/1jsygSm

Spokane Man said...

I received a toll bill today for an alleged violation on 2/12/2016. When I looked at the licence plate number it was for a truck that I own that has been sitting in my garage for the last month with the engine removed for repairs. To add to this I live in Spokane and I can't remember the last time I was in Seattle. I called and got someone to look at the photo and he said "I can't read the second number on the plate in the photo so I will be dismissing this charge". So what is DOT trying to accomplish by sending out fines for plates that they by their own admission can't read? I'm guessing that DOT is hoping that for $7 most people will just pay the fine and won't go through the time and effort to prove their innocence. This makes it hard to say that this whole thing is not just another attempt by another level of government bureaucracy to extol as much money as possible from the public. To whom and where do I send my bill for my time spent proving "you got the wrong guy"?

WSDOT said...

Spokane Man, we apologize for the mix-up. The photo of the plate was processed by a Good to Go's license plate reader. Typically, if the system is unable to read the plate, it passes it along for manual review. In this case, the system thought it had read it accurately – it had not. Thanks for identifying the mistake early and I’m glad we got it refunded for you. There should be a note for that plate so this doesn’t happen again.