GG Bridge electric toll vote delayed by toll-taker layoff concerns
- Published Friday, January 14, 2011, by the San Francisco Chronicle
Ask not for whom the bridge tolls
By John Wildermuth
Concerns about the costs and the consequences of laying off its toll collectors convinced Golden Gate Bridge directors to delay action on a plan to move to an all-electronic toll collection system next year.
A number of directors at Thursday's meeting of the bridge district's finance committee said they weren't willing to back the plan without more information.
"I've got questions about laying off people who do a good job for us," said John Moylan of San Francisco. "I don't like any part of this."
Bridge officials argue it would save an estimated $19.2 million over the next 10 years by moving to a toll collection plan that combines the existing FasTrak system with a method that photographs the license plates of cars going through the toll plaza and mails a bill to the registered owners.
About two-thirds of motorists on the bridge use FasTrak. There would be no change for those drivers.
While the annual savings might not seem like much, "the costs of (electronic) collecting have dropped over time ... while the cost of manual collection has risen greatly," said Joseph Wire, the district's auditor-controller. The change is designed to reduce expenses and strengthen the bridge district's long-term financial stability.
But toll collectors are the bridge's ambassadors to the motorists who use it, and firing them could cost the district its public face, some directors argued.
"We're not a (toll) road in Colorado, we're the Golden Gate Bridge. ... The idea of those toll booths standing vacant makes me nervous," said board President Janet Reilly of San Francisco.
Bridge officials agreed to come back in two weeks with more information about the plan and possible modifications. It could go to the full board for approval as soon as Jan. 28.
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