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  • Waiting for a ride

Thursday June 10 More Toll Talk


Plenty of rides again. Today I’m in the back seat of a Honda sedan. A Phillipino couple I’ve ridden with before are in the front seat. A small wooden cross swings from the mirror. Traffic is heavy, the radio is loud and we sit quietly as we move along, at a pretty good pace in spite of the traffic. Until just before Berkeley, and then we crawl. As we approach the Maze intersection we see the reason for the slow down – a stalled SUV in the center lane. Once we’re around that we speed along and up onto the bridge.

I lean forward and ask the driver if he’s a regular casual carpool driver, and he says yes, most of the time. So I ask how he feels about the toll and about collecting money from his passengers after July 1. He shrugs and says the economy is bad, what can we do. He seems a bit vague on the numbers, so I explain. “The $4 bridge toll is going up to $6 during commute hours; $5 during off commute hours and weekends. Carpool lane is going to $2.50”. His wife says, “$12 a day, just for toll?” Right, unless you use the carpool lane.

After navigating a lane change on the bridge the driver says, “I wonder what they do with the money. Think about all the thousands of cars crossing the bridge every day – at $6 a car it must be millions of dollars!” “Yes,” I agree. “But I think a lot of it will go to cover expenses already incurred, instead of for new costs.” “So” he says, “they are charging toll to cover their over-runs? They should stick to their budgets!” About 270,000 cars cross the bridge (both ways) each day and the morning one-way commute is about 30,000. The only actual dollar amount I could find was from 2008; at that time nearly $43 million in bridge tolls came in for that one year.

I would like to see the tolls being used, at least in large part, to pay for more BART tracks, more accessible parking lots for public transit connections, more commuter buses. I hate to see (as I have just yesterday on the 80 freeway) men in hard hats working away to WIDEN the freeway and add yet another lane for the gas guzzlers. We should be aggressively getting out of the car-gas business instead of accommodating it.

“I think people could pay $1 if they want to”, he says in response to my question about collecting toll from riders. I ask him if he has a Fast Track transponder and he does not, yet, but seems okay with getting one. (required for carpool lane drivers)

It’s a sparkling sunny day on the bay. Yesterday’s heavy winds have cleared the air and we breeze into the city.