25 Investigates: E-ZPass insider reports a system in crisis

BOSTON — An insider with E-ZPass customer service reports a system in crisis and tells 25 Investigates the state contractor in charge of billing and collections for the new electronic tolls has failed to do its job.

The insider doesn’t want to be identified because she still works for TransCore, the state contractor paid $200 million in tax dollars to handle E-ZPass customer service.

But she told Investigative Reporter Eric Rasmussen drivers face long hold times when they call E-ZPass and the operators have one goal – to get you off the phone as fast as possible.

“On my screen I can see that there’s a hundred people in cue – a hundred people in cue on some days,” she said. “They don't care about customer service. They want you off the phone. No ‘hi, how are you?" – just get them off the phone and get that next call.”

Internal records obtained by 25 Investigates show E-ZPass drivers’ calls routinely go unanswered for more than 90 seconds, failing to meet the goals in TransCore’s own weekly report cards.

On one day in February, operators answered just 3 percent of calls in under a minute and a half while thousands more waited.

In January, employees at a TransCore call center received a memo saying, “Under no circumstances are we to say that our system and programs are not great.”

When asked why that memo was put out, the call center insider told 25 Investigates, “Because people like me were honest (and said) ‘Yes, the system sucks. I’m sorry.’”

In February, 25 Investigates first told you about glitches in the new electronic tolling system, including misidentified plates, old E-ZPass accounts reopened and as many as 3,800 former E-ZPass customers on the hook for money they didn’t owe.

All that means thousands of calls to E-ZPass customer service call centers every day.

John Clay of New Bedford is the latest driver to tell 25 Investigates about his bogus E-ZPass bill on the new pay-by-plate system. He called 25 Investigates after he started getting toll bills for driving through the Ted Williams Tunnel.

But the car racking up those tolls had a license plate that Clay turned in to the RMV nearly 10 years ago. He tried calling E-ZPass customer service but couldn’t get any help.

“Oh, wait and wait and wait. It's like an hour sometimes,” said Clay.

Transcore, the contractor in charge of customer service, declined a request for an interview.
The company said its 10-year, $200 million contract with MassDOT prevents it from discussing "project details."

MassDOT tells 25 Investigates Transcore is making improvements and adding more staff to handle calls.

In March, Investigative Reporter Eric Rasmussen asked Director of Tolling Stephen Collins about customer service and other issues with the new system.

"We work on bettering the system every day," Collins said at the time. "It's continuous improvement."
But all that improvement comes at the expense of taxpayers, who are footing the bill to make E-ZPass live up to its name.

MassDOT hauled in more than $450 million in toll revenue last fiscal year – and that was before launching the new all-electronic tolling system.

The agency says it’s now meeting its goals for answering calls in 90 seconds.