Car pools decline after toll begins 

The Bay Bridge isn’t the region’s only iconic span experiencing a mass exodus of car poolers.

A day after Bay Bridge officials released statistics showing a 30 percent drop in car poolers since a $2.50 toll was enacted July 1, the Golden Gate Bridge transit district unveiled numbers that revealed a staggering 68 percent decline in car poolers since the span implemented a toll of its own.

The Golden Gate Bridge is managed by a separate agency than the Bay Bridge, but both spans offered free passage to car poolers prior to July 1. On that date, the Golden Gate Bridge began charging car poolers, motorcycles and shuttle vans a $3 toll, a fee projected to raise $1.3 million annually for the cash-strapped bridge district.

Like the Bay Bridge, motorists on the Golden Gate Bridge are required to purchase a FasTrak transponder to be eligible for the car pool toll rates.

Last July, the Golden Gate Bridge tallied an average of 2,085 car poolers a day. Since the $3 toll increase, that number has fallen to 665 a day, a 68 percent decline.

The decrease has been even more precipitous since July 19, when the bridge district stopped accepting cash payments from car poolers. The preceding 2½ weeks were used as a trial period to get motorists to buy FasTrak transponders. Since FasTrak became mandatory, the number of daily car poolers has dropped by 74.1 percent.

Bridge district spokeswoman Mary Currie attributed the decline to several factors other than the new toll, including the inconsistent driving patterns of summer motorists, an increase in motorists paying the full $5 FasTrak toll and a shift in commuters to the district’s ferry service.

Each year, roughly 430,000 car poolers go over the Golden Gate Bridge, a figure that amounts to 2 percent of the span’s total crossings.

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Will Reisman

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