Pending approval by Commissioners Court, which next meets Jan. 31, the rate reduction would go into effect by Labor Day, according to Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis. The Harris County Toll Road Authority also proposed providing up to eight free EZ TAGS per household.
“There are people who live in every precinct in Harris County who many times have no choice but to take a toll road to get to where they’re going,” Ellis said at the news conference. “This will make it a little bit easier for all of them, and this change in policy will reduce barriers to access and make it easier for anyone who wants an EZ TAG to get one.”
HCTRA Director Roberto Treviño said the 10% discount would apply to those driving two-axle vehicles, which he said make up 95% of HCTRA’s transactions. He added that drivers can choose to apply the discount on each individual transaction, or after aggregating transactions on a monthly basis.
As part of the transition to all-electronic tollways, the county will also be phasing in several options for residents to obtain EZ TAGs at retail stores, open cash-backed accounts and pay at EZ TAG retail stores, according to Ellis.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia said the new policy is based on “sound financial modeling and smart operational policy”, and he believes it will streamline the invoicing and collections process.
“Most people think you can make a system much more solvent by charging more. This is not the case that we’re proposing today. With the increased access, it means there’s no more excuses for toll running or for evasion,” Garcia said during the news conference.
In response to a question about losing 10% revenue from 95% of the customer base, Treviño said the population growth in the region will correspond to increased demand and use of the toll road systems.
“What we’ve done and what we’re recommending is instead of collecting on that future growth, is to implement this discount and leverage that future growth to ease some of the travel burden of the community,” Treviño said.
The proposal will likely be voted on at the next Commissioners Court meeting Jan. 31.