Posted on February 2, 2012 at 6:49 PM
Friday, Feb 3 at 8:23 AM
SEATTLE -- Every day, 64,000 vehicles cross the 520 bridge and almost all of them will pay a toll. But there's a fee you might not know about. It’s a 25 cent charge if the tolling equipment can't read the Good to Go pass.
And the state will charge you that quarter even if it may be their fault.
“I have no problem with the toll. I have a problem when someone charges me for something that I didn't cause,” said customer Julie VanWallendael.
And if you ask the state for proof, good luck. Mike Culver calls the Good to Go pass the “Go to someplace else” pass.
The notation on the bill calls the charge a photo enforced associated fee.
“You drive through, we take a picture of your license plate, we say, yep, that person, we know who they are, they have an account, we add 25 cents on that pay by plate,” said Craig Stone from the WSDOT.
Stone says the tolling system is 90 percent accurate.
“We know there will be sometimes, every couple of thousand [times] there might be a misread or a miss and it's because of equipment," he said.
Culver says he got an incorrect bill.
The Bellevue resident says he wasn't even on the bridge when he got charged. So, he made a simple request, he asked to see the photo of his car.
“They weren’t offering to prove my case. The record was the record. That was that, goodbye,“ said Culver.
“I think my core issue was the arrogance of the reply and the fact that there was no recourse. No matter what I wanted, they gave me one option. They gave this to me twice which was, get a subpoena,” said Culver.
KING 5 asked to see the photo, but we couldn’t because of privacy issues.
“My bottom line is either I'm the biggest liar in the whole world or this is so silly that I can't believe that anybody would do it," said Culver.
KING 5 received calls and emails from viewers all over the area complaining about the charge.
VanWallendael lives in Seattle but works for the City of Bellevue. She got a 25 cent charge. She also called customer service and challenged the fee.
“When I asked them what, you know what was wrong, did I put it in the wrong place, was something wrong with my placement, she said, 'No. Sometimes it was weather, sometimes it was a low frequency,”' said VanWallendael.
Stone from WSDOT says this is a customer service issue.
“We want to make sure when they contact us we can work with them to make adjustments accordingly. But so far we haven't seen anything systematic,” said Stone.
Just a few days after making this claim, WSDOT announced that there was a problem. It seems the toll equipment's internal clock was intermittently losing time and re-synching to the correct time for a week in January.
WSDOT is working on refunding those 25 cent charges for the time frame in question. Eighteen thousand of those 25 cent charges went out during that time frame.
But for everyone else with photo fees before and after that event, they'll credit your account once and that's it. No matter how many 25 cent fees there are, even if it may be their fault.
“I want them to eat the 25 cents, not the commuters. It's pretty simple,” said VanWallandael.
WSDOT says it will change how customer service agents work with people on these issues.
WSDOT in the end allowed Culver to see a photo of his plate at a Good to Go center. KING 5 along to the one at the Univeristy District Thursday.
The manager said she didn't have it and then told us the pictures are sometimes deleted.
KING 5 called WSDOT who told us that's not the case. Now, the state is saying his registration for Good to Go was wrong.