Carpoolers will soon be asked to pay up

May 19, 2010 7:40:31 PM PDT
The days of the free carpool across the Bay Bridge are coming to an end. Soon there will be a new era for commuters. Tolls are going up and something called "congestion pricing" will begin on the bridge.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission is a little worried that not everyone who needs to know about the coming changes does, so it is taking every opportunity to try to get the word out.

Carpoolers' free ride across Bay Area bridges is coming to an end on July 1, 2010.

"For the first time since the 1970s, a toll will be charged for carpoolers on all seven of the state-owned bridges," says MTC spokesman John Goodwin.

Carpools and solo hybrids will have to have a FasTrak toll tag to pay the new $2.50 toll on weekdays between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The MTC just started running an ad in movie theaters and has handed out flyers at the casual carpool locations.

"Some people are saying that the driver should assume the costs and some are saying, 'Whatever you want me to pay, I'll pay." But, we don't know yet what's going to happen we'll work it however," says Joanne Lark, a carpooler from Fairfield.

"We are willing to share, like $1.25 if we are taken by twos, that's still very inexpensive on our part," says carpooler Lolita Rose.

"I told my carpool in the morning we have to share. Yeah, I will chip in," says carpooler Rosalinda Tan.

The toll revenue is needed to help pay for seismic retrofitting of the Antioch and Richmond-San Rafael bridges and to make up for what has been a steady decline in toll revenue over the last six years.

On July 1, 2010, there will also be a $1 increase, from $4 to $5 for all non-carpool vehicles on all the bridges except the Bay Bridge, which will have congestion pricing.

For weekday Bay Bridge commuters, the toll goes up to $6, but will stay at $4 during non-commute times and on weekends it will be $5.

"I saw it was going to be $5, but I didn't know it was going to be $6. They're going to make a lot of money," says Karina Martinez, a driver from San Pablo.

The Golden Gate Bridge is not a state-owned bridge so it is not a part of these coming changes. However, it is also considering a $3 peak-time toll for carpoolers. That vote is set for May 28.


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