Toll-takers at the Golden Gate Bridge have less than five months left on the job as span officials plan to go to all-electronic tolling by February.
The bridge district's Board of Directors has already voted to eliminate the 32 toll-takers on the span and will convene Friday to adopt the all-electronic toll policy.
Golden Gate Bridge officials are eliminating toll-takers, among other steps, to help bail the district out of a $66 million budget shortfall over the next five years.
"It's where the industry is going, the technology is here, it's workable and doable," said Mary Currie, bridge district spokeswoman. "We anticipate seeing improvements in flow of traffic during our peak period of congestion." By phasing out toll collectors, part of the fabric of the bridge since it opened in 1937, the district will save roughly $19 million over eight years in salaries and benefits. A toll-taker's base annual salary starts at $48,672 and tops out at $54,080. It will cost $3.2 million, however, to get the system up and running.
Twelve of the collectors have already either retired, left the bridge district or have taken other jobs within the district. Another 20 toll-takers stand to lose their jobs, although seven have expressed interest in driving district buses.
Elsewhere in the United States and overseas, cashless tolling systems use video cameras like those already installed on the Golden Gate to capture the license plates of toll
There also will be an account similar to Fastrak dubbed "pay-by-plate" that also deducts payments from a driver's account after the vehicle passes through the toll plaza. The bridge also will offer a one-time payment option that can be made up to 30 days before passing through the toll plaza.
There also will be retail outlets where bridge users can pay their toll in cash by providing their license plate numbers. Payments also will be accepted over the phone and online.
Those who do not do anything will be mailed a bill for the toll with a payment due in 21 days. After that time has elapsed they will be treated as toll violators and will be required to pay the toll and a $25 penalty. There will be no mechanism to accept cash payments at the bridge.
Only Fastrak users will pay a reduced $5 toll, all others will pay a $6.
"Fastrak is clearly the easiest way to go," Currie said.
Bridge officials expect some initial problems with the new system, in particular with people who visit the area and are unfamiliar with the tolling structure. They considered keeping one of the 11 toll booths open for cash transactions, but decided against it.
"The traffic would back up on the bridge from that one lane," said David Dick, a bridge official working on the all-electronic toll project.
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