Bay drivers may face toll hikes

Car poolers who cruise for free across the Bay Bridge will likely be forced to pay $2.50 to cross the span as early as July.

The increase in price is one of the several toll hikes recommended by area transportation authorities for all state-owned bridges in the region.

If the plan is approved, starting in July the current $4 toll on the Bay Bridge will increase to $6 from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. during weekdays. The toll on the span would return to $4 during off-peak hours, and would bounce to $5 during the weekend.

Also part of the plan is a $1 increase to the region’s six other state-controlled bridges, which excludes the Golden Gate Bridge; a $2.50 charge for car poolers on all bridges; and an exponential increase on tolls for truckers, depending on the number of axles per vehicle — although that measure wouldn’t go into effect until July 2011.

More than 38,000 car pool trips are recorded daily on the region’s seven bridges, including 17,938 on the Bay Bridge. Lafayette resident Aaron Hill, 34, who has been part of the region’s informal “casual carpool” network for 13 years, called the proposal to raise fees “horrible.”

“Carpooling basically restored my faith in humanity because it was such a grassroots effort, and now they want to go out and quash the practice,” said Hill, who said he usually waits at the Lafayette BART station to get a ride to The City with a random driver, thus avoiding a toll on the Bay Bridge. “It doesn’t seem to make any sense to me.”

With the hikes, the Bay Area Toll Authority would receive an extra $165 million — most of which would fund retrofitting projects on the Antioch and Dumbarton bridges — according to the agency, which manages the spans’ tolls. Portions of the revenue would also help pay off debt and make up for decreases in car traffic on the region’s seven BATA-managed bridges.

After presenting three options for toll increases in October, BATA officials opted to move forward with a measure that contained a congestion-based pricing option for the Bay Bridge.

Commute times on the span would drop by 23 percent, from a maximum-delay time of 27 minutes to 21 minutes, if the congestion-based toll is implemented, according to BATA statistics.

While the BATA staff has put forth the recommendation, no decision on a toll increase will be made until Jan. 27 at the agency’s full board meeting. If the BATA commission approves a toll recommendation, it would go into effect July 1. The truck tolls would go into effect on July 1, 2011.

The last time tolls increased on the region’s seven state-run bridges was in 2004, when voters approved Regional Measure 2, a $1 hike that brought the tolls up to their current price of $4. Revenue from that toll goes toward regional transit projects.

 

Taxing tolls

Crossing the Bay Bridge and all Bay Area spans, excluding the Golden Gate Bridge, could be more expensive by as soon as July, under a proposal based on recommendations released Wednesday.

Bay Bridge
Vehicle    Current toll    Proposed toll
Car poolers    $0    $2.50
Auto*    $4    $4-$6
Trucks**    $4-$13.50    $4-$35

Other state-owned bridges
Vehicle    Current toll    Proposed toll
Car poolers    $0    $2.50
Auto    $4    $5
Trucks**    $4-$13.50    $4-$35

*Depending on time
**Depending on number of axles

Source: Bay Area Toll Authority

 

Paying to cross

State-owned bridges in the Bay Area that will be affected by the proposed toll increases:

-Bay Bridge*
-Antioch Bridge
-Benicia-Martinez Bridge
-Carquinez Bridge
-Dumbarton Bridge
-Richmond-San Rafael Bridge
-San Mateo-Hayward Bridge

*Only bridge that would have congestion pricing

Source: BATA

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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