On The Other Hand, Libertarians Have Good Reasons To Distrust The Government, Like Washington’s 520 Bridge Toll Trap

SR-520-toll-signNicola Livic, of Redmond, Washington  has a transponder on his car that is linked to a credit card that automatically pays his tolls when he crosses Washington’s floating Highway 520 Bridge. His credit-card number was changed by his bank due to a fraud threat, so his online account stopped working.

The motor-vehicle department also had his mailing address wrong, so when it tried to alert him that his tolls were in arrears, the letter ended up who-knows-where. Meanwhile, fees and fines were added, and compounded. By the time Mr. Livic realized the problem, he owed $3,545 to the state, less than $300 of which were the tolls.

He appealed the bill at the state Department of Transportation (DOT), and was told, in essence, “Tough.”

He is not alone. The system, in which a photo of a vehicle is taken as it crosses the bridge and the owner is billed, but without subsequent warnings or reminders if payment is overdue, is guaranteed—a conspiracy theorist would say designed— to generate snafus that the citizen is always going to pay for, and through the nose. The fine on each missed four dollar toll is $40, and over time, the fines turn into multi-thousand-dollar collection actions. Appeals go to an administrative review system set up by the transportation agency itself. This is what we commonly call  “a conflict of interest.” The state makes an average of $65,000 just in fines on the 520 bridge tolls each day. It loves this system.

When the erratic system of billing tolls was being debated five years ago, a local judge saw right through it, and made a prediction.

“Since the birth of our democracy, it has been well settled that government cannot take from its citizens without due process of law,”  Barbara Linde, then chief judge of King County’s District Court system and now in Superior Court, told the legislature.  “In my view, it will only be a matter of time before an aggrieved citizen, and there will be many aggrieved citizens, brings a class-action lawsuit.”

Now that class action suit has arrived, claiming  that the 520 bridge’s multiplied by ten tolling fines and rigged appeals process is unconstitutional, as well as in violation of consumer laws. “People are being gouged by the government in ways no private business could get away with,” says one of the three lawyer bringing the suit, attorney Mary Anderson.

Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom believes that the judges who hear the case will take a dim view of “tossing citizens into an administrative process,” and will make a prophet out of Judge Linde, who predicted in her testimony that the state would probably lose such a suit, and  would have have to repay toll penalties, triple damages and attorneys’ fees, probably amounting to millions of dollars.

This is why libertarians don’t trust government. It’s greedy, it’s often inept, and it generates bureaucracies that serve themselves, not the public interest.


Pointer: Fred

Source: Seattle Times 1, 2


10 thoughts on “On The Other Hand, Libertarians Have Good Reasons To Distrust The Government, Like Washington’s 520 Bridge Toll Trap

  1. Gouged in ways no private business can describes the income tax system established in the 20’s and perfect by FDR and confused for more generations that even the Founders disapproved of…

    This is no new revelation.

    • (reply to texagg04 Feb 3, 3:25 pm)
      Hmmm, I was just talking about divestiture of government power, in an earlier thread, starting with the powers of the presidency, and conceding that a convention of states would be necessary, just to have a prayer that any change in a less fascistic direction could begin. I wasn’t expecting Jack to provide such a good example to underscore my point, so soon.

  2. On the flipside, this is why I cannot stand our taxing and fee systems to EVER be set up in a “behind the scenes automatic withdrawal” process. Ultimately the citizens stop feeling the “HIT” of taxation because they see their take home money and budget off of that and quietly make mental adjustments each year as taxes change.

    Sure it’s convenient. But just think how much more citizens would care about our budget & spending & taxes if every year they had to write out a BIG FAT check from their year’s earnings to see just how rough taxation really is.

  3. Since the times I have been cross-ways with IRS have never gotten this far, isn’t the IRS “Tax Court” set up in the same way? That is to say, the court is owned by the IRS, lock, stock and barrel, with the “Judge” getting his paycheck from none other than the IRS. Also heard a rumor that SCOTUS has heard at least case questioning the legitimacy of this and found for IRS. Anybody know if this is true?

  4. I have always maintained that I could start a revolution in this country by lining up everyone to get paid their gross pay in cash and then watch as the paymaster starts taking back the amounts that would ordinarily be “withheld.”
    As far as public tolling goes, try analyzing similarly what’s going on with the so-called “public-private” deal with the tunnels in the Hampton Road are of Virginia. Elizabeth River Crossings, the private part of this rip-off, gets to set the tolls, they are guaranteed a 13+% profit, and if the state builds another bridge or crossing that takes away the tunnel traffic, the state has to pay the loss to ERC.

  5. I experienced the first cousin of this scam recently. My wife and I flew to Chicago to meet her siblings and their families for a couple days over the holidays. Then we rented a car and drove down to Urbana, where one of my favorite former students, now a PhD candidate at the University of Illinois, was getting married. We got up the next morning and drove to O’Hare to drop off the rental car and fly home.

    Although we know Chicago at least reasonably well, we’d never driven to O’Hare, so we relied on the GPS to get us there. We ended up on the Illinois Tollway, which is already ridiculously expensive, but we didn’t know the local roads well enough to avoid the Tollway.

    Other than the mounting costs, everything was fine until the last toll station–the turn to take you to the rental car facility at O’Hare (and not much else), meaning the majority of the people taking that exit are from out of town. No agent at all, a toll of $1.60 (I think, don’t quote me on that part), they won’t take bills, exact change only. So if you don’t have a roll of quarters in your rental car, you’re left with no choice but to run the tollbooth. Which, of course, is the only reason you wouldn’t have an agent there: to collect fines from people who would have just paid the toll had they had the ability to do so.

    Yes, you can go online to pay the toll for a week after the fact, but you need to know the license number of your car, the time, and the number of the exit. I’m hoping my 20 minutes on Googlemaps netted me the right number, or I’ll be hearing from the rental car company that they’ve charged me another however many dollars for fines on a $1.60 toll. Somehow I suspect it will be determined that I did something wrong even if I didn’t.

    As you know, Jack, I’m quicker to believe incompetence than malevolence. This one, though… absolute corruption.

  6. And those triple damages and attorneys fees are really being paid by the taxpayer, not the that came up with the idea. And people wonder why I think we should bring back the stocks…

  7. And these are the same people who would enforce laws requiring restaurant employees to wash their hands after using the restroom…

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