Golden Gate Bridge officials began testing a new all-electronic toll pay system Wednesday – the first step in eliminating human toll takers on the famous span.
Bridge District spokeswoman Mary Currie said during the test there will be no visible change to commuters and toll takers will still be manning their booths.
“Tolling is going electronic globally,” Currie said. “We are just the first ones to do it in California.”
During the testing period, the existing tolling system – cash and FasTrak -- and the new tolling system will both be available to commuters using the toll lanes.
Cost saving and improved traffic flow were the reasons for eliminating the toll taker positions and going to the new cashless system, Currie said.
“Collecting tolls by hand costs about double what it does using FasTrak,” she said.
The cash-strapped bridge district had previously estimated it will save approximately $19 million over an eight-year period once the new system is in place.
During the test period, Currie said the district will give the system a complete dry run from collecting the license plate numbers via cameras, to testing the computer systems and the payment system.
While FasTrak will remain the payment system of choice, the bridge district will also have two “pay to play” options.
The first option will allow drivers to set up a license plate account. A bill will be mailed to the car owner each month charging them for each time they cross the bridge in the pay direction. While the pre-paid Fastrak accounts will save drivers $1 per toll crossing. The other two options will force the driver to pay the full price of $6.
The second option will be a one-time prepayment made at machines located in the Bay Area and possibly at rental car agencies. Currie said the district still has yet to find 14 of a toll taker staff that once numbered 32 other positions within the district that manages public transit in Marin County.
According to the district, 70 percent of the bridge’s daily traffic already uses Fastrak to pay electronically. Converting the remainder to electronic pay will improve traffic flow even more, especially on weekends.
“We anticipate seeing improvements in the flow of traffic during our peak periods of congestion.” She said. “The collectors will go away, there will be no stopping and everybody will keep on moving. “ The new system goes into full use in March with an intensified public education system being in late February.
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