Motion to remove pedestrian tolls on Golden Gate Bridge fails

A motion to remove tolls for pedestrians and bicyclists from a Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District financial plan narrowly failed Friday, meaning the proposed tolls will be studied along with other proposals to generate revenue in the face of hundreds of millions in projected deficit.

Following an outcry from pedestrians and bikers several days before the bridge district meeting and dozens of public comments, board member Dave Snyder motioned to remove two items – pedestrian tolls and cyclists tolls – from the 45-point 2014 strategic financial plan.

The vote was close, with 9 board members including Scott Wiener, David Campos, Norman Yee and London Breed of San Francisco in favor of removing the tolls from the plan but 10 board members against, killing the motion.

Immediately after, the board voted 14-5 in favor of the plan, which will be studied in its entirety. Implementing any item requires further approval by board members. The district has a $33 million five-year deficit and projected 10-year deficit of nearly $210 million.

Though the pedestrian and bike tolls can still be rejected, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition spokeswoman Kristin Smith said her organization was “very disappointed” they remained as considerations.

“The district is now potentially going to be the first to charge a toll for cyclists and pedestrians on a bridge in the Bay Area,” said Smith, adding it does not reflect the region’s values.

From its opening through 1970, the district administered a sidewalk toll on the bridge. Tolls for pedestrians and cyclists have been considered in recent decades but were not implemented in 2005 and 2009, when it was deferred due to construction projects at the time that impacted the sidewalk.

Board director John Moylan of San Francisco County, who proposed the toll, said, “It’s not fair that the people who drive into San Francisco pay for everything.”

Yee, who voted in favor of the motion but also to move forward with the entire financial plan, asked the district to look into how many visitors by foot or bicycle are tourists versus locals.

“We should look at how we can find ways for the tourist folks to be part of the solution here in terms of being revenue generating,” Yee said. “If 90 percent of the people who walk across are tourists, I would probably support a fee.”

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