Toll cameras on the Golden Ears Bridge.

Toll cameras on the Golden Ears Bridge.

For whom the bridge bill tolls

A Maple Ridge resident recently received a $5,000 bill for Golden Ears tolls.

  • Sep. 20, 2013 7:00 p.m.

Ian Christiansen now knows the dismay of being surprised by a larger-than-expected bill, and like others living in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, has learned how quickly bridge tolls can add up.

He recently received a $5,000 bill for Golden Ears tolls.

He knew in the back of his mind a bill would be coming. His work takes him back and forth across the bridge several times a day, as he pressure washes and cleans the exterior of houses on both sides of the Fraser River.

He crosses with a motorcycle, and regularly gets his invoices. But his work pickup has never been billed, despite the fact that he has a registered transponder.

“The onus is on them to send me a bill. I’ll just wait until I get it,” was his thinking.

After four years of free rides, he even joked with friends that he would one day get his comeuppance.

Still, the amount of that first-ever bill was overwhelming, so much that Christiansen has asked TransLink to cut him some slack. But with insurance due in December, the message he’s hearing is that ICBC will not renew his insurance until he pays $4,980.63.

“I’m not saying I don’t owe them the money,” he clarifies.

But he wants a breakdown of his bill. He would like the interest removed. And he wants to make payment arrangements.

“I’ll go on a payment plan, and pay it off – they don’t want to talk to me,” he said. “This has been going on for years, what’s the rush now?”

He spoke with a lawyer, who told him that TransLink has the legal right to collect for six years worth of debts.

“I owe them the money, I’ll pay them the money, but let’s be reasonable,” he said.

However, “They can’t expect me to pay interest when they don’t bill me.”

The interest portion is $90.87.

The cost of a trip across the bridge is $3 for a car or pickup that is registered and has a transponder. The cost for an unregistered vehicle on a pay-as-you-go basis is $4.25 per trip.

TransLink spokesperson Sany Zein would not comment on an individual account, but said TransLink is proactive in notifying customers to pay their Golden Ears Bridge tolls, through monthly invoices. When there is an outstanding balance, two notices are mailed to the customer. Errors in addresses, customers moving, customers not checking email accounts, or customers not realizing they have registered for email statements rather than paper mail are some of the common reasons why outstanding balances are not received by customers, said Zein.

About four per cent of Golden Ears Bridge toll revenue is outstanding.

Christiansen’s is not the largest bill that the company has issued, but the company declined to say what that amount was. It is one of the largest.

“QuickPass works closely with customers to resolve issues or queries related to statements and charges. There is also a dispute process for customers who disagree with charges. Customers can complete a dispute form, and the QuickPass office will review each file and the circumstances,” said Zein. “If QuickPass can identify an issue with its billing process or the toll system, QuickPass on a case-by-case basis may reverse some interest charges that have accrued on the account. However, QuickPass is not responsible for the errors by customers in providing mailing address or email information, as it can only bill based on the information provided by the customer. As such, the full outstanding balances are owed to QuickPass. QuickPass will not reverse legitimate toll charges.”

Despite the debt, Christiansen has no problem with user-pay bridges.

“I love the bridge. I went over it, I’ll pay the bill, no problem.”