Bridging the financial gap 

Salary freezes, the elimination of positions and a new car-pool toll have improved the financial outlook for the Golden Gate Bridge district, though the picture is still bleak.

Last year, the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District faced a five-year, $132 million deficit.

With the help of salary freezes and position eliminations, the implementation of a car-pool toll, reductions to their administrative expenses and other cost-saving measures, the bridge district has managed to cut its five-year projected budget shortfall to $89 million, a 33 percent decrease. The district’s 10-year projected deficit also fell, from $417 million to $308 million.

Every year, the bridge district recalculates its five- and 10-year budget outlooks as a way to shape its near- and long-term plans. In 2009, when it was facing a $132 million shortfall, the district came up with a financial plan that outlined 33 different revenue-generating and cost-saving measures.

So far, the district has implemented six points of that plan, including reducing manual collection of tolls, and adding a $2.50 toll for car-poolers, who previously traveled for free across the bridge, according to district spokeswoman Mary Currie.

Two more facets of the plan — fare increases and schedule changes for ferry service, and the elimination of some bus lines — are being
implemented, Currie said.

To help eat into the remaining $89 million shortfall, the district will next consider cost-saving measures such as automated-ticketing machines, modernizing its communication systems and eliminating some positions at its customer service center.

Potential plans that are further down the line include an all-electronic tolling system, charging for parking at the Larkspur ferry terminal and a possible pedestrian toll for accessing the bridge’s sidewalk.

Although the deficit is still large, Currie said the drop in the five-year outlook is a positive development.

“We can breathe a little deeper here,” Currie said. “It’s important that we get that shortfall down and continue to provide our services in the best way we can.”

In 2008, the district raised tolls by $1 to help up make a then-five-year, $91 million shortfall. However, the following year, the five-year deficit projection was increased to $132 million.

Making progress

The Golden Gate Bridge district’s deficit has been reduced in the past year

$89 million Current five-year projected deficit
$132 million Five-year projected deficit in 2009
$308 million Current
10-year projected deficit
$417 million 10-year projected deficit in 2009

Source: Golden Gate Bridge district


wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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Will Reisman

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