Posted: 11:44 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013

Toll cheats big problem at Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge

By Jana Katsuyama


A loophole KTVU first exposed, which allows drivers to cross Bay Area bridges for free, has turned out to be a problem at the Golden Gate Bridge.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, KTVU obtained data for the number of vehicles that pass through the Golden Gate Bridge Toll Plaza every year without paying because they have no license plate or because they have untraceable temporary dealer placards typically given to newly purchased cars.

The data shows a huge spike in "no plate" violations at the Golden Gate Bridge.

Here are the numbers rounded to the nearest thousandth:

2011:  80,000 no plate violations.

2012: 108,000

2013: 224,000 (through Oct. 31)

Golden Gate Bridge officials say the rise in violations is likely due to the switch in March from toll booth workers to all electronic tolling.

"Prior to electronic tolling they were stopping to pay their toll and now, there is a larger number of people crossing the Golden Gate Bridge without paying," said Mary Currie, Golden Gate Bridge District spokeswoman

That uncollected toll money totaled $1.2 million so far this year at the Golden Gate Bridge.

Currie says that lost toll revenue is offset in the budget with the fines paid by violators who are caught.

Still it's a loophole that allows people to cheat the system, just as the Golden Gate Bridge District is counting on every dollar and considering a toll increase to cover a projected budget deficit.

For the seven other Bay Area bridges, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission tells KTVU as much as $6.1 million was lost last year in uncollected tolls due to "no plate" crossings.

KTVU asked some drivers what they thought about the cheats.

"I think that's pretty unfair because I pay tolls every time I go across," said Alix Pruzansky, a San Francisco resident.

"Everyone should pay their fair share," said Marin County resident Sander Zaydman, who drives across the bridge every week.

Transit officials tell KTVU that they plan to ask state lawmakers to make a change such as requiring temporary numbered plates on all newly sold vehicles.

"Closing that loophole, that would be a huge success in California," said Currie.          


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