FasTrak use on Bay Area bridges speeds up

Cash is no longer king for most Bay Area motorists.

Since 2006, the number of drivers using FasTrak on the Bay Bridge has more than doubled, with nearly 77 percent of morning drivers now using the cashless technology.

Introduced in 2002 by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the region’s lead transit group, FasTrak transponders were seen as a way to speed up the commute on the Bay Area’s crowded bridges.

In 2006, the last time the MTC checked the rate of FasTrak usage, only 36 percent of regional motorists were using the device on the Bay Bridge during the morning commute.

After its most recent report, which studied traffic levels during the first week of September, the MTC found that 76.9 percent of the morning drivers on the Bay Bridge were FasTrak users. The rate of FasTrak drivers during the evening commute also increased significantly, from 44.6 percent in 2006 to 68.8 percent in 2010.

On the region’s seven bridges overseen by the MTC — which does not include the Golden Gate Bridge — 68.6 percent of the motorists are now using FasTrak, a rate that’s just below the agency’s goal of 70 percent, which was set in 2006.

“We’ve seen a steady climb in our FasTrak usage, which is very encouraging,” MTC spokesman John Goodwin said.

He said greater awareness, plus a recent policy that requires car-poolers (who now receive a 50 percent discount on toll prices) to purchase the transponders has contributed to the rise in FasTrak use.

The demand for FasTrak passes has risen most dramatically in recent months, with weekly sales increasing by 415 percent from the first week of May to the last week of June, which was just days prior to the new rules for car-pool drivers.

With the prevalence of FasTrak drivers — and the absence of motorists stopping to pay cash tolls — commute times have sped up in the region.

The maximum delay for drivers crossing the Bay Bridge has decreased from 19 minutes in 2009 to 10 minutes in 2010. The total number of hours spent stuck in traffic decreased by 8.5 percent during that time span, according to MTC statistics.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

 

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