Today marks the beginning of the final chapter in the era of human toll collectors on the Golden Gate Bridge.
As of 5 a.m., the bridge authority begins its test phase of an all-electronic toll collecting system, eliminating the need for real people to take your money and welcome you to The City.
The days of digging out cash and stopping at the toll plaza will soon be over, even for non-locals. In fact, cash won’t even be an option. When the electronic system is fully implemented in March, drivers will swiftly travel through the toll plaza without stopping while a video surveillance system captures the license plate.
Along with the departure of humanoids at the bridge, toll evasion citations will also be diminishing. Because of the new system, everyone is given a chance to pay just the toll at first. Like a citation, the driver has 21 days to pay the toll before it actually turns into a $25 penalty. A second offense will cost you $70.
Mary Currie, spokesperson for the bridge district, told SFBay:
“If you do nothing, you just drive through without knowing what to do, you are no longer a violator. Yesterday, you were a violator. The fees from citations will more than cover any lost money if we can’t track down some people to pay their toll.”
Switching to the electronic system will cost $3.2 million to install and test, but is expected to save $19 million over the next eight years by relieving 32 toll collectors of their duties.
For the next 60 days, no changes will be apparent when crossing the bridge. The human toll collectors will work alongside their electronic successors until the system is fully implemented, collecting cash while traditional FasTrak remains the same.
During this time, the Golden Gate Bridge Authority will embark on a major outreach campaign to inform locals and visitors alike of the new system.
That should give most of us bridge-crossers plenty of time to set up the new “pay-by-plate” toll system at http://www.goldengate.org. For those who are resistant to technology, live outside the area or simply choose not to sign up, the bridge will track you down and mail you an invoice for the $6 fee. One-time payment options will also be established around the Bay Area.
The initial thrill of blowing through the plaza may soon fade for some of us who appreciate face-to-face interaction. Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, even with horrendous traffic, is always somewhat of a magical experience, and the surprisingly friendly toll collectors added a nice, welcoming touch.