Woman thousands of miles from Bay Area gets FasTrak toll ticket; this is how the agency got it wrong


COLTON, Wash. (KGO) — If you cross a Bay Area bridge without FasTrak, a camera will take a picture of your license plate and send you a bill for the toll. But sometimes the bill goes to the wrong driver.

Among the latest is a woman living thousands of miles away who hasn’t been to the Bay Area in forty years. How could FasTrak be so wrong?

Cynthia Freyer lives in a small town in Washington State. The town’s website, Colton, shows a village surrounded by miles of grain fields and farms.

So when Freyer received an invoice to pay a bridge toll, she was totally perplexed.

“When I saw it, I was quite confused at first,” she said.

RELATED: Change Automatically Withdrawn Money Amounts for FasTrak Accounts vex drivers

Freyer only drives to the next town to get groceries and gas.

So it was confusing when she got that ticket, thousands of miles away.

“Well obviously surprised and confused. I thought, ‘How did this happen?'” she said.

It was a toll bill from FasTrak, saying she had crossed the San Mateo Bridge on the morning of June 17, and now she had to pay the $7 toll.

“I haven’t been to San Francisco in probably 40 years, so it was surprising that I could get a ticket and not even be there,” Freyer said.

VIDEO: Bay Area woman ticketed for using FasTrak lane when she didn’t; still had to pay a fine

At first she thought it was a scam. She says she has never been on a toll bridge in her life.

“No, never, never, never, never. And I certainly don’t know where the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge is,” she said.

But she went online and found that the FasTrak information was real.

Then why did she take a ticket here in Colton?

“It says avoid penalties, pay by the July 27 due date,” Freyer said as he read the notice. “It’s only $7, which must be pretty reasonable for San Francisco.”

She was surprised to learn that $7 only paid for one trip across the bridge

RELATED: Thousands of Bay Area Drivers Challenge Unfair FasTrak Charges on Freeway Express Lanes

“Oh my god. I’m staying here. I mean, don’t your gas tax and other taxes go towards roads and transportation?” she says.

Freyer lives in a place where there are no tolls, no red lights, or even a stop sign.

“We have a little bridge here that crosses the creek. That’s it,” laughed Freyer.

His town has only 430 inhabitants – living in the middle of wheat hills – where there is not even a grocery store.

“We have a bookcase that’s about the size of my bathroom,” she said.

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There are no toll roads or parking meters. No one worries about fines and fees. Freyer says she can’t imagine living where you have to pay to park a car or cross a bridge.

“It’s bad for the psyche, don’t you think? You should come here, it’s so peaceful,” she said.

Freyer said at the end of the day she was sitting by a stream with a fishing rod. She left city life decades ago, but now the FasTrak ticket was bringing her back inside.

“I would have crossed the bridge at 10:40 a.m.,” she said, referring to the notice.

Freyer found the 7 On Your Side stories online at FasTrak. We found out why she got that bill.

FasTrak tells us that someone else with a Washington license plate drove across the San Mateo Bridge that morning. The camera read the plate, but the result came back “uncertain”, so it is reviewed manually. A clerk had to decide if the letter in the middle of the license plate was an “O”… or a “D”.

A license plate photographed by FasTrack on June 17 is what led to Cynthia Freyer of Washington receiving a $7 toll ticket

If you look at the photo, can you tell?

Freyer’s plate has a D. But the FasTrak clerk made the wrong call, so Freyer got the wrong bill.

The actual driver did not.

However, after we inquired, FasTrak was quick to see the error and waive the charge. Freyer was impressed

“It was the best government experience ever. Can you help me with my taxes?” she asked.

FasTrak told 7 On Your Side that about 2% of photos taken by cameras give an “uncertain” result, called “low confidence.” These all pass the manual review, and of these, 2% are wrong. Multiply that by millions of cars without FasTrak – mistakes are bound to happen.

Check out more stories and videos from Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

The 7OYS Consumer Helpline is a free mediation service for consumers in the San Francisco Bay Area. We help individuals with substance-related problems; we cannot act on business-to-business cases or cases involving family law, criminal cases, landlord and tenant disputes, labor issues, or medical issues. Please see our FAQs here. As part of our support process, it is necessary for us to contact the company/agency you are writing about. If you do not want us to contact them, please let us know immediately, as this will affect our ability to work on your case. Due to the high volume of emails we receive, please allow 3-5 business days for a response.

Woman thousands of miles from Bay Area gets FasTrak toll ticket; this is how the agency got it wrong

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