Saturday, 2005 February 26, 16:51 — California, tax+privacy

“new” ideas in revenue

A friend of Russell writes:

Stephany is having an interesting problem with the California Transit Authority, and someone on one of your lists or blog might have some advice on how to proceed.

In the last two months, Stephany has received three traffic citations for blowing through the Golden Gate Bridge FastTrak lane without paying. They bill her for the unpaid toll ($5) plus a fine ($25) that must be paid within 15 days or her DMV registration will become attached.

The problem is that Stephany never is anywhere near the Golden Gate Bridge nor crosses the toll plaza (something she can prove when the supposed violations took place), never mind blowing through it without paying. And as is the case for such things, you are guilty by default unless you take the time to contest it. She contested the last two, which they cleared, but she just received her third one in several weeks and now she is quite pissed.

Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action. Whether the cause is incompetence or malice, this is harassment under the color of authority that she is forced to take the time to deal with. The people at the Transit Authority are stupid and unresponsive; they have no reason to give a damn and one gets the impression that this happens all the time.

There are two open questions:

1.) Has anyone else been getting these bogus citations?
2.) What is the best way to generate enough pain for the transit authority that this abuse stops?

Comments and suggestions are welcome, and it would be particularly interesting to know if other people have had the same thing happen to them. I’ve found a few references on Google to other people getting these inexplicable citations over the last couple months, but it seems that some people just pay them rather than deal with it. It would not surprise me to find out that these things are being sent out randomly, trawling for revenue from people to[o] lazy to fight it since the fine is not that steep.


Steph sees no reason to anonymize this. She wants this to stop, and it seems the only way to do that will be to inflict some pain on the transit authority. The citation states that the “toll surveillance system” shows that the vehicle in question committed the infraction, but that they are routinely incapable of providing evidence of any type makes this claim doubtful.

It smells like a revenue fishing exercise, and such scams are not without preceden[ts].

Suggestions are invited.

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