Car pooling has worked so well on Bay Area bridges that bridge operators are considering ending the free rides for car pool users during weekday rush hours.
I can hear the rumble of protest brewing among car pool users: “Hey government, we took car pools like you asked, so why penalize us by ending the free ride?” Isn’t that like water districts raising water rates in a drought to offset the loss of revenue from customers using less water? some people might ask.
The issue is likely to reverberate through the halls of the Bay Area Toll Authority - a regional toll collection agency – in the next year as the authority’s board and managers discuss how to pay for $950 million in proposed seismic retrofits for the Antioch and Dumbarton bridges.
The toll authority revealed today that it is looking at three toll options, one that would keep the free rides for car pools in rush hour, and two options that would charge either $2 or $3 per car pool. That rate would still amount to a discount from the regular car toll, which would increase from $4 to $5 per car under a proposal unveiled today by the toll authority.
To the toll authority, the bottom line is they need more money fairly quickly for two new bridge safety projects, and the increase in car pools and decline in paying motorists on bridges is eating a big hole in their wallet.
During spring this year, car pools accounted for about 46 percent of the vehicles crossing the Bay Bridge between 7 a.m and 8 a.m., the toll authority reported today in a report. Toll revenues from the seven bridges in the Bay Area (all except the independly run Golden Gate) are about $30 million annually below forecasts.
Amy Worth, an Orinda city councilwoman on the toll authority board, said she thinks it’s fair to make car pool users share the financial burden of paying to strengthen the two bridges against earthquakes.
Worth said car pools would continue to get to use preferential car pool lanes on the Bay Bridge approach, saving some 20 minutes on their morning commute from the East Bay to San Francisco.
That big time saving, Worth suggests, is a bigger incentive than the free rides to motivate people to take car pools across the bridge into San Francisco, she suggested. Besides, some toll authorities in other states already collect a discounted toll from car pools during rush hour, she noted.
Will car pool users buy these arguments of the toll authority, or will they kick and scream about the possibility of losing the free ride? What is the fair thing to do? Share you opinions below