Tolls Up

Hey, did you notice that there are a few financial issues facing the state? Even the Department of Transportation and the toll authorities are feeling the pinch.  So, this shouldn’t really surprise anybody:

Bay Area bridge managers today proposed raising car tolls from $4 to $5 on six bridges, charging different tolls at different times on the Bay Bridge, and ending the free ride for carpools on all seven state bridges in the region.

Preparing to introduce the Bay Area motorists to congestion pricing, staff of the Bay Area Toll Authority recommend raising the toll to $6 on the Bay Bridge during weekday rush hours, while leaving the toll at $4 during other weekday hours. On weekends, the Bay Bridge toll would be $5 at all times. (CoCo Times)

It’s good to see that the Bridge Authorities are going to start using congestion pricing, it will go at least part of the way towards reducing some of the traffic nightmares on the bridges. However, I think the bigger news is snuck in there: the end of free rides for carpools.

In the East Bay, the casual carpool system has been an institution for many years.  There’s a whole etiquette of the casual carpool, how to get a ride, how to give a ride, how to behave during the casual carpool.  It’s been a really good way to encourage people out of their cars, but that ends if the carpool free ride ends.

We need to work very, very hard to find ways to reduce the number of cars on the roads and bridges of the Bay Area. So, yes, we need to push people toward BART and the busses, but that alone will not be enough. It is really too bad that the carpool system looks set to end.  

4 thoughts on “Tolls Up”

  1. increase the take from congestion pricing than to increase congestion?  

    Seriously, does DOT think that altruism drives the casual carpool?  Or maybe, just maybe the inconvenience and lack of privacy of sharing a car with strangers is overwhelmed by the benefit of NOT HAVING TO WAIT, IDLING YOUR CAR, IN THE FRICKING ENDLESS TOLL LINE?

  2. What this post leaves out is that over half the budget shortfall is due to adding bridges to the seismic retrofit program. Making the bridges safe and sound to modern seismic engineering standards is the Bay Area community’s shared burden. Carpoolers can’t complain too much. First of all, the BATA controlled bridges are among the only bridges in the entire USA who actually give a free ride to carpoolers. Secondly, to get the still reduced rate for carpools, you have to sign up for Fastrak, which will keep carpoolers moving at a faster rate than at the cash toll plazas.

    And, another thing to consider, is that the less people use the bridges, the higher BATA will raise tolls. Yep, another quarter of the budget shortfall is due to lower than expected bridge use since the recession hit. Lower bridge usage means lower toll collection revenue. BATA is, in part, raising tolls to make up for the deficit.

    Of course, all of this could be alleviated if we just decided on a small sales increase tax to fund the bridges instead of toll collection. BAM…there goes all the toll collection overhead and traffic would move twice as fast.

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