The big show today at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, in members’ role as the Bay Area Toll Authority Oversight Committee, was how to reach critical mass with FasTrak, the electronic toll collection system on Bay Area toll bridges.
To demonstrate that rush hour FasTrak use, now 42 percent, can be improved, MTC staff put out a nice little graph, showing various toll-collecting agencies and their rates of rush-hour electronic toll payers, ranging from 57 percent to 88 percent.
The winner was Orange County’s Transportation Corridor Agencies. The problem with the TCA is that a lot of their customers use transponder-only toll roads, so it’s not really fair to compare their 88 percent participation rate. On the other hand, what the MTC is proposing is sort of like that: Get FasTrak or you’ll be out in the cold, waiting to hand over your money behind a line of 100 cars.
On the other hand, the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, with 65 percent FasTrak participation, offers a fine parallel. How ever do they do it? Down at the bottom of the graph, it tells you that it costs $5 cash and $4 electronic.
Call me crazy, but if those people were coming from the East Bay instead of Marin, the rate would be 90 percent.
MTC says its hands are tied. It needs the money to retrofit bridges, not to mention build that big pointy thing to replace the East Span of the Bay Bridge. When tolls go up in January to $4, FasTrakkers will be get that Golden Gate discount, but just for a month.
I predict that a lot of people will sign up for the January discount, many more than will respond to the MTC’s big promotional campaign. Many of them will also feel cheated in February because they went to all that trouble without realizing that the discount was only for one month.
So from one FasTrak customer to the MTC, I would suggest seeing how things go in January. If it works as I expect, you might want to offer that discount every few months or so, until you reach that 70 percent goal.