Study: FasTrak cash discount would spur use 

Reduced FasTrak rates could shrink congestion and smooth traffic flow at Bay Area toll bridges, according to a recent study from San Francisco State University.

The study, published earlier this month in the California Transportation Journal, shows the Bay Area lagging behind other metropolitan cities when it comes to using electronic toll systems such as FasTrak.

Just 40 percent of drivers who cross the Bay Area’s eight toll bridges — excluding the Golden Gate — use FasTrak, according to San Francisco State University marketing professor Sanjit Sengupta, who conducted the study along with Hector Bedolla, a graduate student working with him. Comparatively, about 70 percent of drivers use electronic pay systems on the Golden Gate Bridge, and on similar systems in New York, New Jersey and Chicago, according to the report.

"Others have been able to reach the 70 percent level, so why can’t we," said Sengupta, who commutes to San Francisco from Walnut Creek. Increasing the number of FasTrak users would not only save drivers money, but speed traffic across bridges and cut down on pollution from idling cars, Sengupta said.

To encourage more users, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission should institute permanently reduced rates for FasTrak users, similar to what others agencies, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, have done, Sengupta said.

Instead, the MTC has implemented a plan to add more FasTrak lanes and extend the lanes farther from the tollgates for easier access beginning this summer, spokesman Randy Rentschler said.

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