AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority has not billed TxTag customers for the past six months because it doesn’t “have confidence in the data” it gets from the Texas Department of Transportation, according to CTRMA’s top official.
The revelation comes following a series of technical problems that continue to plague TxDOT, which operates TxTag. In recent weeks and months, KXAN has heard from dozens of viewers who have complained about issues related to TxTag’s billing. It’s an issue KXAN has investigated for years.
It’s such a concern to CTRMA that the toll authority decided last November to temporarily stop billing TxTag customers, for the second time in less than a year, according to CTRMA Director of Operations Tracie Brown.
“When we send out a bill in error, customers call us trying to understand why that happened, and that calls into question CTRMA’s billing processes,” said Brown. “We obviously don’t want to send out bills in error, so we just made a decision, let’s not do this until we can work with TxTag, and have some more confidence in the data that they’re sending us.”
The TxTag troubles are taking a toll on Danny Snyder, a longtime customer, who reached out to KXAN. He carries a folder of frustrations.
“I received no statements, no indication that anything was wrong with the account,” said Snyder.
In late 2020, Snyder said his account suddenly stopped auto-billing. That resulted in multiple pay-by-mail invoices from CTRMA, including overdue notices for hundreds of dollars, he said. Instead of tolls deducting from his TxTag account, he began receiving paper statements from CTRMA, without the 33% discount that TxTag account holders should receive.
“I’ve opened multiple tickets online with TxTag and they keep telling me they’re working on it,” Snyder said in his email to KXAN. “In the meantime, I’m having to manually check my account and add money when my prepaid funds are used up.”
TxTag’s “solution” was for him to “manually pay the bills” to CTRMA and submit the invoices to TxTag. This way he could be reimbursed for the amount he should have been charged if the discount had been correctly applied, Synder said.
To add to the confusion, CTRMA’s billing statements say he could have “saved” money if he had a TxTag — even though he is already a current account holder — a standard message for anyone not recognized as having a TxTag. Snyder’s emails to TxTag, dating back over a year, show his mounting anger as the agency blamed an unspecified system “update.”
“Our system has been in the process of an update to improve billing for our customers,” TxTag told him in an email dated Aug. 11, 2021. “Several of our customers have reported they are not able to access their monthly statements. We are in the process of correcting the issue.”
The same line — “[o]ur system has been in the process of an update to improve billing for our customers” — was used, again, on Nov. 29, 2021 in response to another complaint made by Synder.
“What’s going on with this entire system?” Snyder asked. “It’s been a lot of controversy since it started. And this seemed like one more thing to add fuel to that fire.”
CTRMA blames TxTag. Last November, the toll authority said it stopped billing TxTag customers due to a lack of confidence with TxDOT’s account-holder data. CTRMA said it attempts to post bills on a TxTag account four times before sending out pay-by-mail notices.
“We had some assurances from TxTag last summer, late last summer, that the data was good and we could go ahead and start reacting to the data that they were sending us,” said Brown. “We started that in August and we noticed issues almost immediately in September.”
“We had conversations with them and decided to stop reacting to that data in November of 2021,” said Brown. “So, we have not sent out any new bills related to TxTag customers.”
When CTRMA does begin billing again, tolls older than 60 days will be waived, said Brown.
A TxDOT spokesperson did not respond to questions about CTRMA’s response. On its website, TxTag says it has taken “longer than anticipated” to generate toll statements. The agency said the issues began when it migrated 2.6 million accounts to a new operating system in late 2020.
“While we have resolved many of these issues there are still remaining areas we are working through,” TxDOT spokesperson Veronica Beyer said in a statement. “TxTag staff and our new replacement back-office vendor are making progress to address these outstanding issues caused by the transition and migration.”
The agency fired its previous vendor last summer due to a botched upgrade that was bogged down with technical problems.
TxTag says it will continue communicating issues directly with customers and online. The agency says it also improved its call center operations to “better handle these concerns.”
“We understand that billing issues are time-consuming and frustrating for customers,” said Beyer. “We appreciate your patience and apologize for the inconvenience.”
As for Snyder, he eventually found a workaround to his situation. It took deleting his account and starting a new one, he said.
“As someone who works in [information technology], it’s befuddling to me that they couldn’t just fix whatever the problem is on the back-end,” he said. “And just make this work.”
Customers experiencing issues with their account are urged to call (888) 468-9824 or submit an inquiry online.