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Committee to consider AET on San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge

The finance committee of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District will meet this week to consider the introduction of all-electronic tolling (AET) on the iconic bridge. If approved by the committee, and the full board follows suit on January 28, the Golden Gate would become the first toll bridge in San Francisco’s Bay Area to be fully automated. The district estimates it will save US$19.2 million over an eight-year period by cutting the jobs of the 34 unionized toll-takers and money counters. According to district spokeswoman Mary Currie, managers are expected to be “redirected to other priorities”, including security and safety oversight. The cuts are part of a broader effort to reduce an US$89 million deficit projected over the next five years.

The committee is set to consider authorizing the expenditure of US$2.9 million to install the electronic toll-collection infrastructure that is planned for full implementation in December 2012. The AET system would use cameras already deployed at the toll plaza to capture images of vehicles’ license plates in order to catch payment violators. The new system would not affect the majority of the bridge’s customers, two-thirds of whom already pay electronically using the FasTrak pre-paid system. The remainder – who currently pay in cash to a toll taker – would have other payment options; they’ll be able to register their license plate and link it to a credit card account, for instance, which would be charged for the crossing. Non-registrants would have a bill sent to the address on file with the Department of Motor Vehicles. The toll-collection changes will not alter the US$6.00 toll, which is discounted by US$1.00 for FasTrak users.

Currie said the changes are expected to minimize congestion at the toll plaza and reduce emissions as motorists will not have to stop. “The human component is the challenging one, probably the most challenging,” she added. “The technology is there – that’s the wave of the future. It’s already being used elsewhere.” Some of the toll collectors may retire before the jobs are eliminated, she said. Others may be retrained or reimbursed for tuition to learn new job skills. She also said the employees may be able to qualify for other positions within the bridge district. Along with the job cuts, the plan would create five new customer-service positions for programs associated with the new toll system.
 

January 12, 2011

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