Kentucky, Indiana crafting 'get well plan' for RiverLink toll woes
The move comes as Kentucky and Indiana acknowledge customer service difficulties during RiverLink’s first year, including long wait times, erroneous invoices and improper late fees.
JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (WDRB) – Kentucky and Indiana officials are preparing a "get well plan" for the RiverLink toll system beset with recent customer service problems.
Few details were made public at meetings Monday of the project's top oversight boards, but a spokeswoman said more staff is planned at call centers struggling with delays.
The move comes as the states acknowledge difficulties during the cashless toll network's first year, including long wait times, erroneous invoices and improper late fees.
RiverLink also plans to launch a new payment option that would let drivers pay online before they get an invoice in the mail.
“In listening to our customers, we heard over and over again that people wanted to be able to pay their toll bill without having to wait for their invoice to arrive,” said Megan McLain, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's innovative finance manager. “They wanted to be able to pay just using their license plate number online.”
Project officials still need to develop software that would allow people to pay by entering their license plate number and other information at www.riverlink.com, McLain said. She expects it could be ready by next summer.
The plan was approved Monday by the six-member tolling body. It met along with the project’s ultimate oversight panel – the four-person joint board of top transportation and finance officials.
Neither board had met since tolls began on three Ohio River bridges late last year.
“The (joint) board would like to note that we are aware of call delay times on the RiverLink system, along with some invoicing issues,” Dan Huge, Indiana’s public finance director and a member of both groups, said during the first meeting.
The states also have undertaken the “get well plan” that aims to address some of the problems, Scott Adams, the Indiana Department of Transportation’s tolling director, told board members.
“We understand there have been some issues that have led to frustrations on the part of our customers,” he told the joint board. “We continue to work very closely with both state parties, administrations in both states, to rectify those problems as quickly as possible, to provide the best customer service experience possible.”
Board members did not ask for details, and he did not speak to reporters after the meeting.
Kentucky’s representatives of the joint board – Transportation Secretary Greg Thomas and Finance Secretary William Landrum – declined to be interviewed. Huge and Indiana Transportation Commissioner Joe McGuinness exited quickly once the boards had adjourned.
In recent months, people have been waiting longer to reach RiverLink representatives. In October, for example, the average hold time was more than 12 minutes, according to internal reports from toll system operator Kapsch TrafficCom.
And call wait times have continued to climb. They were as high as 28 minutes during one day last week, McLain said, while other days had typical waits of 24, 15 and 13 minutes, respectively. One day had a wait time of less than a minute, she said.
Those calls are answered by Texas-based Municipal Services Bureau, or MSB, a Kapsch subcontractor. Asked how the states view the subcontractor’s work nearly a year after tolling began, McLain said: “We’re happy with where we’re going.”
“I think we’re happy with the improvements that have being made,” she said. “I think we still have a long way to go and MSB is working with us to make those improvements, Kapsch is working with us to make those improvements and the states are working with them to improve policy decisions to make those improvements.”
There also are plans to increase the customer service workforce. RiverLink spokeswoman Mindy Peterson said more than 80 new workers could start by January.
If call wait times fall, the states then expect to begin freezing the vehicle registrations of drivers with outstanding tolls. McLain said officials are “hoping for January.”