ATLANTA — It’s a convenience hundreds of thousands of drivers use daily, amounting to more than 20 million trips a year. The Peach Pass saves you time by getting you around traffic. It’s the fast lane, for a price.
But Channel 2 Action News is hearing from customers that say the Peach Pass is experiencing growing pains, even charging them for trips when they were out of town on vacation.
Many of the issues surround the launch of a new app. Channel 2′s Sophia Choi started looking into the problems even before the launch of the new app. But once it was available, the complaints multiplied.
“It was over $400,” Hall County resident Norman Wood said.
That’s how much he discovered he owed in violation charges for his Peach Pass. The problem: an expired credit card on file with the State Road and Tollway Authority. SRTA oversees the Peach Pass.
Woods said he never received any notifications and began racking up $25 fees each time he jumped in the Peach Pass lane.
“They basically just let me sit there for four months collecting fines without notifying me,” Wood said.
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For fiscal year 2019, SRTA collected $4,329,442 in Peach Pass fines. From fiscal year 2020, SRTA issued nearly 325,000 violations.
Choi reached out to SRTA’s director, Chris Tomlinson, who quickly offered an apology for the problems.
“Customers are absolutely right to be upset at the confusion. And I sincerely apologize for that. And we’ve taken a number of steps to address that,” Tomlinson said.
Other customers want reimbursements for trips they say they never even took. Cartersville resident Melissa Wright is one of them.
“It hit three more times while I was sitting at work, and I hadn’t even been on the express lane,” Wright said. She said the express lane was closed on that day.
She regularly uses her Peach Pass during her daily work commute from Bartow County to Chamblee in DeKalb County.
“I need to take the expressway, I live a long way from work,” Wright said.
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Once SRTA launched the Peach Pass app upgrade in mid-November, she started getting charges under other Peach Pass identification numbers.
She said some of the charges were on routes she never takes and, at times, when she was out of town. The total cost: $160, before she took action.
“It went through two auto replenishes before I locked my credit card. Because I wasn’t using the express for nine days and it was just going through funds like crazy,” Wright said.
Jack Walsh in Decatur says the same thing happened to him.
“There was just like this deluge of charges all at once. And a lot of them very hefty,” Walsh said
Choi found plenty of similar complaints on the Better Business Bureau website and the Peach Pass Facebook page.
Tomlinson said they’re on it. He said the wrong dates users are seeing are simply the day the trip hit the system, not the travel day. And the identification numbers users see are internal record numbers and do not correspond to transponder IDs.
“We have fixed that. I encourage all customers to look in the app. Each instance, where that has been the case and we researched it, we’ve been able to show that that is their trip,” Tomlinson told Choi.
Along with the new app, the Peach Pass is expanding, where and how you can use it including across more state lines and to park at places like Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
But for customers like Wright, the true toll was emotional.
“It is scary having your credit card attached to an account that’s getting depleted and nobody will answer either emails, phones. It’s a very scary thing,” Wright said.
Tomlinson recognizes customer service wasn’t their strong suit. He said they beefed up the technology and staff with a new answering system and a new social media strike team to deal with complaints.
Most accounts should now reflect correct information. Since Choi initially interviewed Wright and Walsh, they tell her everything looks sorted out now.
If you do get hit with a violation fee, SRTA says if you contact them within 30 days, they will reduce the charge from $25 to $5.
Norman Wood says after he finally reached someone, they reduced his $400 violation to $115.
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