Cash-only drivers running out of room

Commuters heading west across the San Mateo Bridge on Monday were greeted with a breezier trip through the tolls if they paid with FasTrak or rode in a carpool — and longer lines if they paid cash.

The span between Hayward and San Mateo, used by 92,000 vehicles each day, is the first of the Bay Area Toll Authority’s seven bridges to receive expanded lanes for those using electronic transponders or sharing rides. During morning and evening commutes, the bridge’s one carpool lane and two FasTrak-only lanes have been expanded to two carpool lanes and three transponder-only lanes, reducing the number of lanes for cash-paying commuters from seven to five.

During nonpeak hours, the carpool/FasTrak lanes will become FasTrak-only lanes, making the total count for FasTrak-only lanes five.

“The bottom line is, we are telling Bay Area motorists, if you’re still using cash, be prepared for longer waits,” said John Goodwin, director of the authority.

Lane expansions are coming to other bridges this summer, starting with the Antioch Bridge and sweeping to the Bay, Dumbarton, Carquinez, Richmond/San Rafael and Benicia bridges, the latter of which will allow FasTrak users to avoid toll booths entirely, according to Goodwin. As cash-payers are squeezed, the authority hopes to boost FasTrak use from its current levels, near 48 percent, to 70 percent of all bridge toll payments.

“They’re making it extremely painful for the cash payers,” said Cliff Greenberg, who commutes daily from Castro Valley to his job at Nikon Precision Inc. in Belmont. “They chose the stick, not the carrot — I think the discount approach would motivate more people.”

On the Golden Gate Bridge, which operates under a different management, FasTrak users pay $4, rather than the $5 cash-payers must fork over. That has paid off, prompting 70 percent of morning commuters to use the devices, said Golden Gate Bridge District spokeswoman Mary Currie, who added that FasTrak has cured toll gridlock.

Caltrans, which owns the other Bay Area bridges, uses toll fares to pay off construction bonds and can’t afford to offer discounts, Goodwin said.

Even so, FasTrak use on the San Mateo Bridge and elsewhere has continued to rise by roughly 20 percent per year since the devices debuted in 2000 — a period in which bridge use has remained relatively flat, Goodwin said. Now, there are 650,000 FasTrak accounts and 1 million transponders in circulation.

bwinegarner@examiner.com


Do you plan to switch from cash to FasTrak?

Share your comments below.

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A pile of refuse that includes car parts, tires and other items stands on a sidewalk on Egbert Avenue in the Bayview District on Tuesday, July 27, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
New surveillance effort aims to crack down on illegal dumping

’We want to make sure we catch people who are trashing our streets’

Health care workers treat a Covid-19 patient who needs to be intubated before being put on a ventilator at Providence St. Mary Medical Center during a surge of cases in Apple Valley, Dec. 17, 2020. Confronted with surging infections, California became the first state in the country to mandate coronavirus vaccines or testing for state employees and health-care workers. (Ariana Drehsler/The New York Times)
In California, a mix of support and resistance to new vaccine rules

By Shawn Hubler, Livia Albeck-Ripka and Soumya Karlamangla New York Times SACRAMENTO… Continue reading

Dave Hodges, pastor at Zide Door, the Church of Entheogenic Plants that include marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms, holds some psychedelic mushrooms inside the Oakland church on Friday, July 22, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Psychedelic spirituality: Inside a growing Bay Area religious movement

‘They are guiding us into something ineffable’

Gov. Gavin Newsom at a news conference at Kaiser Permanente facility in Oakland on Monday, July 26, 2021, where he announced a new state requirement for all state employees and health care workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or face regular, frequent testing. (Jim Wilson/The New York Times)
What to know about new masking guidelines in California

By Jill Cowan New York Times The delta variant is really throwing… Continue reading

Most Read