Since the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) is composed of Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) Directors you wouldn’t expect to see a rational bridge toll plan. And you won’t get one if BATA votes for the currently proposed plan at its upcoming meeting January 27th. On July 1, all Bay Area bridges will increase the toll to $5.00 except the Bay Bridge (read on) and the Golden Gate Bridge, which is a separate authority.
So far it seems pretty rational. But now we get to the Bay Bridge with its time-of-the-day-of-the-week price plan. This one is so spooky that you have to wonder what asylum conjured it. First of all, Monday through Friday from 5 to 10 AM and 3 to 7 PM, the toll is $6.00. This is considered “Congestion Pricing” and the thinking here is that people will naturally select to cross the bridge during the cheaper hours.
The only problem with this concept is that no sane person would volunteer to put themselves in the horrendous morning and evening commutes. They are there because they have to be there. It’s just with this plan we nip them an extra two bucks. But the zany stuff continues. The rest of the time on weekdays only, the toll remains at its current $4.00. On weekends, just for the sheer randomness of it all, the toll rises to $5.00. Trucks will also experience an increase to $5 per axle for every axle over two.
In addition, we find a half-hearted, almost useless slap at casual carpoolers with a $2.50 charge for the current free ride around the toll plaza. Now a casual carpooler is a transit rider picked up transit stops (you need two please) and with these strangers in tow, the driver gets to whip around the toll plaza for free. $2.50 (collected by FastTrack) will likely not be enough to put an end to this wasteful practice.
It’s wasteful because it encourages the driver to drive and return alone (the strangers ride transit home). It also takes thousands of transit riders away from services like BART, AC Transit and East Bay ferries. All services are struggling for cash and the morning cash is removed from the systems by casual carpoolers. That leaves empty seats operated by a service that desperately needs to fill them.
But it’s worse as the driver currently dodges the bridge toll that in part is paid to transit to reduce bridge congestion. The fact is casual carpooling adds to congestion and degrades transit services. This is a typical MTC performance. They spend a lot of money to improve transit and then they turn around and institute a policy that will fail to discourage driving. What’s in the water at MTC headquarters?