It's Going to Cost You $8 to Cross the Golden Gate Bridge

Feb 26 at 12pm

It’s a one-two punch for transit lately, as a possible $2 toll increase on the Golden Gate Bridge follows the proposal to charge $6 for a ride on the F-Market streetcars. Phased in incrementally over 2015-18, it seems like a given since America’s Prettiest Piece of Infrastructure is still losing $1.5 million every month. After the last toll increase in 2008, the toll booths were automated last March, but the cost savings weren’t enough. So the current $6 toll ($5 with FastTrak) is probably doomed.

America’s Prettiest Piece of Infrastructure is still losing $1.5 million every month. 

Toll hikes can be a tough sell. (Just ask Gov. Chris Christie, whose predecessor’s tone-deaf plan to triple the cost of driving on the New Jersey Turnpike helped usher the Republican into office). When undertaken by a neutral agency instead of an elected official, the decision seems less politicized – if only because there’s less voters can do about it. That Marin and San Francisco Counties are fabulously wealthy is a bit ironic – hmm, where will we ever get this money from? Such a conundrum – but almost besides the point. Because people don’t want to pay it.

This is one of those issues where you wish technocrats and technologists would buddy up and unveil an app, but oh well. Congestion pricing might be a better alternative to an across-the-board increase, because in addition to the revenue it also improves traffic flow at peak times. Also, that other bridge, the one that goes to Oakland and carries more than twice the volume of people every day, manages it just fine. Alternately, we could create a progressive toll structure, tied to a car’s frequency of crossings (or the Blue Book value of their car, to spare drivers of ailing ‘93 Tauruses). Or connect Instagram to Venmo so that every time you take a pic of the span, you have the opportunity to donate a penny to a new Save the Bridge Fund? (OK, pretty fanciful). Or we could charge cyclists and pedestrians. (Oh, hell no). Or maybe someone can license Pantone 180, aka International Orange, to sell more Golden Gate-iana.

This is one of those issues where you wish technocrats and technologists would buddy up and unveil an app.

Of course, bridge costs are partly the ghost of Marin County’s refusal to join BART, now coming back to rattle some chains. Sure, a two-block-by-two-block section of Central San Rafael might possibly have looked a bit like the zone around Mission and 16th Streets, but it would not only have reduced carbon emissions, it would have alleviated wear-and-tear on the roadbed. Marin refuses even to enact a transportation sales tax. Even though the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District is really running an entire regional network that also subsidizes buses and ferries, Marin residents don’t pay in except through tolls. And as with cigarette taxes or the proposed soda tax, the goals are dual: raise more money from vehicles, but also get people to drive less. Which they are already doing, hence the flatlining revenue in the first place. A comprehensive rethinking of all cross-bay transportation is probably the only thing that will keep the snake from eating its tail.

Meanwhile, suicides hit an all-time high in 2013, with 46 people hurling themselves off the Golden Gate. And you thought the Bay Bridge had problems.

Photo via Thinkstock

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