Since the advent of FasTrak, Bay Area bridge toll taking positions have been cut by 46 and another 20 will vanish in the next five years, (Caltrans spokesman Bob) Haus said. In 2002, there were 372 full-and part-time toll collectors, Haus said, and 326 today.
Like so many other jobs, theirs have been taken by new technology, namely FasTrak RFID technology that the Bay Area Toll Authority, a.k.a. the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, is trying to boost these days.
There are now about 725,000 FasTrak accounts, said Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Bay Area Toll Authority spokesman John Goodman.
No toll takers lost their jobs as a direct result of FasTrak, since most job reductions came through attrition and voluntary transfers, Haus said.
That reminded me of a conversation I had with an MTC official on the question that inevitably comes up when encouraging FasTrak use comes up: Why don’t you just give FasTrak users a discount?
He told me that raising tolls would require legislative approval, and that would be difficult to come up with, considering all of the toll increases we’ve had in recent years.
Especially helpful in Times-Herald story is this box:
Here’s how the $4 bridge toll is divided:
• $1 is the base toll.
• $1 was approved by voters in 1988 for special projects, including the new Benicia and Carquinez bridges.
• $1 was approved by voters in 2004 for a series of highway and transportation improvements.
• $1 is a seismic retrofit surcharge.
The next question is always, why not offer a cheaper toll to FasTrak users?
The answer is that BATA can’t spare enough toll revenue to cover the loss in revenue of any meaningful long-term discount.
(NOTE: The Golden Gate, which is run by a separate authority, offers $1 discounts to FasTrak users)
Question No. 3, then, is what about the savings that more FasTrak tolling would net in terms of needing fewer toll takers, etc.?
The answer was (and I’m sorry to put it this way), even if you fired all the toll takers and did everything electronically, the savings from automation would only amount to a couple million dollars.
That would only be a fifth of what the least lucrative bridge, the Antioch Bridge, collects in a year. The Bay Bridge tolls add up to nearly $180 million in a year, so the savings would be insignificant, especially considering that you’d still have to collect cash from tourists.