Car-pool toll decision on horizon 

Passengers in car pools, motorcycles and shuttles who currently cross the Golden Gate Bridge for free will be reaching for their wallets if a $3 fee is implemented beginning July 1 — a move that would put the span in line with the Bay Area’s seven other bridges.

While car pools currently cross the historic span for free as part of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District’s policy, that perk could soon come to an end as the cash-strapped agency faces a five-year projected budget shortfall of $132 million.

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of only a handful of spans in the country to offer free passes for car pools. The Bay Area’s seven other spans, including the Bay Bridge, also offer free passage for car pools. But following a vote made earlier this year, those bridges will start implementing a $2.50 charge for multipassenger vehicles, with that fee also set go into effect July 1.

Those bridges are managed by the Bay Area Toll Authority, a separate entity from the Golden Gate Bridge district.

On Friday, the bridge district’s Finance Committee will vote on whether to recommend the car-pool toll proposal. If the committee supports the toll, the motion will go for final approval at the district’s full board of directors meeting afterward. If authorized, the proposal will go into effect July 1. It’s projected to generate $1.3 million annually for the bridge district.

Regular FasTrak users pay $5 to cross the bridge and cash-paying customers $6. The $3 car-pool toll was devised to be exactly half the normal cash toll, a ratio that’s widely replicated by other bridge districts and highway authorities.

If the car-pool toll is approved for the Golden Gate Bridge, vehicle owners must purchase a FasTrak transponder to become eligible for the discount. Although the car pools will still have to stop at a manned toll station, the FasTrak purchase is mandatory because the bridge district is moving toward all-electronic tolling by 2012.

The existing car-pool hours on the bridge, 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, will remain intact. There will be no car-pool toll discount on weekends.

Each year, roughly 430,000 car pools cross the Golden Gate Bridge, a total that makes up for about 2 percent of the span’s total ridership.


Crossing the Golden Gate

$3 Proposed car-pool toll for the Golden Gate Bridge

$2.50 Car-pool toll on seven other Bay Area bridges (set to start July 1)

$1.3 million Annual revenue generated from car-pool toll for Golden Gate Bridge district

$132 million Projected five-year budget shortfall for the Golden Gate Bridge district

430,000 Car pools that cross the Golden Gate Bridge each year

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Will Reisman

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