When Bridge Tolls are Fully Automated, Will You be Happy or Sad?

Golden Gate Bridge will do away with human toll takers by February 2013. What's your reaction?

Since the Golden Gate Bridge's debut in 1937, human beings have operated the tool booths. For those who like it that way, enjoy it while it lasts.

The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District is on track to phase in all-electronic tolling on the bridge in December, and cash will no longer be an option to pay tolls by February, district spokeswoman Mary Currie said.

It's the end of an era. Will you be sad when it's entirely automated? Will you be mad that there's no human interaction? Or will you celebrate that advancements in technology are being implemented? Share your thoughts at the end of this story.

Traffic might flow better through the plaza area without drivers stopping, but there could be mass confusion in the early months — and probably confusion forever by tourists in rental cars.

If there's no cash, how will people pay? The options for motorists who do not have a FasTrak account will include a pay-by-plate or "one-time payments" that motorists will make up to three days after passing through the toll plaza, Currie said. Under pay-by-plate, customers set up a license plate account to automatically deduct the toll from their account. The license plate account can be opened online, by phone or in person at the FasTrak Regional Customer Service Center.

 One-time payments may be made online, by phone or in person at the FasTrak Regional Customer Service Center or at a business that is enrolled in the cash payment network system that will be set up in the Bay Area. Businesses providing this service will charge convenience fees for their use.

 An invoice will be sent to the registered owner of a vehicle that does not use FasTrak or make an automatic pay-by-plate payment. The first invoice will be sent three days after passing through the Toll Plaza. The payment will be due within 21 days from the date the invoice is mailed, and if necessary, subsequent invoices will be sent every 30 days.

The all-electronic tolling system will be tested and validated in December and cash collections will still be in effect at that time, Currie said.

Currie said 70 percent of motorists crossing the Golden Gate Bridge pay by FasTrak. The bridge district is advising motorists to set up a FasTrak account now, especially those who cross a Bay Area toll bridge more than 10 times a year.

There will be no change in the Golden Gate Bridge toll rates. The pay-by-plate toll for two-axle vehicles will be $6, the same as the current cash rate. The FasTrak toll will stay at $5, and carpoolers and disabled persons will still pay $3.

The pay-by-plate and FasTrak tolls for vehicles with three to seven axles also are $6 and $5 respectively. Vehicles with eight or more axles will pay a flat rate of $42 under pay-by-plate and $35 for FasTrak.

Converting to all-electronic tolling, a process that started in January 2011, is expected to save the bridge district about $19 million over an eight-year period and reduce congestion on southbound 101, Currie said.

 In January 2011, there were 32 toll collectors in the bridge district. As of today, nine have left for various reasons and three have taken other positions within the bridge district, Currie said.

 The district has hired 20 temporary on-call toll collectors to back-fill the 12 employees' shifts that require coverage, Currie said.

The bridge district is working with the other remaining 20 toll collectors to find positions within the district for which they are qualified, Currie said.

Seven of those toll collectors have shown interest in the district's current bus operator recruitment, Currie said.

The district is working with the toll collectors' union to develop a separation package that "provides a soft landing" if they are unable to find other positions in the district, Currie said. 

— Bay City News Service

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