If anyone spots this suspect, call FasTrak immediately!

FasTrak toll violation photo

Just kidding, this is a photo of me, as seen by a FasTrak toll violator camera.

On three occasions two weeks ago my FasTrak transponder wouldn’t register as I was crossing the Golden Gate Bridge after 6pm. It’s normally free for me going into the city between 4 and 6 because motorcycles and scooters are considered carpools, assuming I get out of work by 5:50. The first time it happened I think there was actually some malfunction, and the other two times I’ve just now received toll violation letters for—because my license plate wasn’t connected to my FasTrak account.

Anyway, it’s kind of amusing for a closed-circuit-tv-esque picture of myself to filter through a giant bureaucracy all the way down to my mailbox, thanks to some really good optical character recognition and a giant database. Do androids dream of captcha license plates? I admit it’s a little scary to know all it takes are a few cameras and a computer to track everyone’s movement through an urban transportation grid.

As an aside: does such a thing as a camera scanner exist? Is it even possible? I’m thinking infrared goggles, except that instead of heat, any CCD/CMOS within one’s line-of-sight would glow.

What annoys me about these systems is how imperfect they are. These violations prompted me to log on and look at my account, and I’ve discovered that I’ve been overcharged three times, twice $10 and once $7.50 (the toll should be $4), the amounts for a 4 and 3 axle truck, respectively. Yay, now I have to convince some customer service agent, “I wasn’t driving a truck over the bridge, I swear (check your photos).”


FasTrak makes up for their imperfect system with really friendly and flexible customer service. I had a ton of these violations and let them sit for over a year. When I called to attach my license plate to the FasTrak they let me back date two years back so that everything would be cleared up.

Camera scanners are simply highly light-sensitive arrays like night-vision scopes. They are used very often in movie screenings to detect people with portable recording devices. In a dark theater, even the glow of an eyepiece LCD can be seen with enhanced light.

I also recall a project which worked by bouncing light off the CCD, similar to how retinal scanners work. This required the camera to point directly at the scanner.


How did you get the photo from FasTrak? I recently received a violation notice for a San Diego FasTrak expressway, but the only problem is I have never been on that expressway. My first request for a review came back as “violation still valid” so I am wondering how to get the FasTrak evidence.

Doug, the violation they sent me had the picture as a part of it. I scanned it in for posterity.


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