Catherine Ross, NBC 5 Collin County Reporter
The North Texas Tollway Authority says it will soon turn to friendlier billing for toll violators, putting the brakes on some of the fines that add up quickly.
One week after thousands of people lined up to pay overdue tolls by phone and in person, the North Texas Tollway Authority is testing a new fee structure.
NTTA spokesman Michael Rey said overdue tolls soon will be billed by flat fees -- $10 on top of the amount owed for the first notice and $25 for each subsequent statement.
The flat fees would not apply to customers who have tolls owed but did not pay up during the previous grace period.
"We've got a pretty good mix of what we call habitual violators and folks who have overlooked it for a couple of months," Rey said. "I think we're coming to the end of the era where folks thought, 'They're not going to get me.'"
The NTTA spoke with 18,000 customers on the last day of the more-than-90-day grace period during which violators could pay owed tolls and did not have to pay the other billed fees, he said. On a normal Friday, the NTTA deals with about 8,000 customers.
While the NTTA is still tallying the numbers on how much overdue revenue it was paid, Rey said there are still close to 70,000 habituation violators, or people with more than 100 outstanding tolls who have received two or more notices.
High school student and part-time delivery driver Merlin Marroquin said her mother urged her to visit the agency's Plano headquarters to pay her overdue bill.
"It you don't pay attention to it, it just keeps adding up," she said. "The due date was on August 30th."
After wiping her slate clean, Marroquin said she plans to get a TollTag, which can cut down on an NTTA bill by about 50 percent.
Rey said the agency is starting a program for infrequent tollway users such as Marroquin. The Starter TollTag would only charge a customer $20 for a prepaid balance.
The NTTA is also adding more locations where drivers can buy TollTags.
Rey said the agency's new flat-fee system is based on customer feedback. Many people have told the NTTA they are fine with paying tolls, just not the administrative late fee of more than $6 per toll.
The NTTA is planning to use the new system over the next year and then evaluate it.