By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez
Golden Gate Bridge tolls may rise following a vote scheduled for Friday by its governing board.
But how high the tolls will go remains an open question.
The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District Board of Directors will weigh five options for raising bridge tolls at a committee meeting Thursday, which will be verified by a final vote Friday.
The options that raise bridge tolls the highest could bring in an extra $15 million annually for the Golden Gate District, according to an agency staff report, which described a need for future investments in the Golden Gate Transit bus system and Golden Gate Ferry system.
Future ferry purchases, for instance, may only be possible by passing higher tolls, according to a staff report. The district is facing a deficit of $74 million and depends on tolls to pay for transportation alternatives to driving.
Right now FasTrak drivers pay $7 to cross the Golden Gate Bridge southbound, and pay-as-you-go drivers, essentially anyone not using FasTrak, pay $8.
But the five options before the board vary which drivers will pay the lion’s share of the toll increase: some weight increases to FasTrak drivers higher than drivers who are billed by license plate as they cross the bridge.
Under “Option 1” for instance, by 2023 FasTrak drivers would pay $8.25 to cross the bridge and pay-as-you-go drivers would pay $9.75. Under “Option 5,” however, drivers using FasTrak could pay a toll of $8.75 by 2023, and drivers who pay-as-they-go could pay $9.
The tolls would increase incrementally. For instance, under “Option 5,” FasTrak tolls would increase to $7.35 in July, $7.70 in 2020, $8.05 in 2021, $8.40 in 2022, and finally to $8.75 in 2023.
At its highest, the fare increase could see some commuters pay roughly $90 more annually.
Those lower fare hikes would only help the district keep pace with its growing deficit, however.
“If there is an interest to grow transit services, the Board should select an option which would bring in more than $75 million in revenue over the next five year,” Golden Gate District staff wrote in their report to the board.
Whichever option the board chooses, it will be with little input from the driving or transit-riding public. The Golden Gate District only heard public comment from 60 people about the bridge tolls prior to the vote.
Of those comments, 40 are generally opposed to raising bridge tolls, nine are in support, nine have proposed alternate ideas to raising tolls, and two comments made unrelated points, according to the Golden Gate District.
At a February public meeting on bridge tolls hosted by the Golden Gate District in San Francisco, just four people showed up to weigh in.
Any toll increases approved by the Golden Gate District board will be implemented July 1.