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  • Waiting for a ride

Thursday, July 8 To Pay or Not to Pay


The evening carpool home last night (Wednesday, July 7) was fast and uneventful. A nice ride in a Jeep SUV. 50’s guy driving asks for toll contribution when we get in. He plugs in some sort of traffic device that is a running commentary on the local traffic. He also has NPR tuned in and later, KDFC (classical music station). All good sounds, except for the traffic device.

This morning (Thursday, July 8) a ride was pulling up for me as I walked up to the carpool line area. Looks like another bay area summer morning on the freeway – gray skies, light traffic. This was a Chevrolet 2-seat pickup truck. A UPS-uniformed driver was driving, which always makes me feel more secure – they spend the day driving in torturous traffic so the commute should be a piece of cake for them, right? I voluntarily drop $1.25 into his cup holder and he chuckles. “Oh, ok”, he shrugs. He says he doesn’t care one way or the other. “I saw a woman get out of a car in the line yesterday”, he says. “She wouldn’t pay the toll, so I guess the driver kicked her out.” He says he’s heard other riders say they won’t pay.

Now that we’re sort of settling into the shock of paying a toll in the carpool lane, I’ve been thinking about how this affects the driver/rider relationship. In a sense, riders have ALWAYS been paying. Before the actual FasTrack toll situation, our presence in a commute car saved the driver $4 each way – that’s $8 that the carpool driver is ahead of the non-carpool folks. Carpool riders now, even with the toll, are saving the driver $3.50 on the Bay Bridge and $2.50 on the Carquinez, or $6 a day if you come from Vallejo. And if the riders, in addition, pay the $2.50 toll for the driver, its $5 across the Carquinez Bridge and $6 across the Bay Bridge that’s in the driver’s pocket.

Yes, I know the driver pays insurance, gas, parking, but if they drove alone they would still pay insurance, gas, parking PLUS the $11 a day toll.

So – to pay or not to pay. What’s fair? And if riders are coughing up the entire toll round trip, should we have more say in what’s on the radio, the temperature of the car, the conversation?

I was anticipating (hoping) that the mutual sharing of the toll would promote more of a partnership between rider and driver, but am beginning to wonder if it’s just going to become an issue of contention. “You’re getting a ride, dammit, so pay up and shut up!” Or “We’re paying your toll, so turn off that damn hip hop!”