Golden Gate Bridge says goodbye to toll takers

March 27, 2013 12:21:05 AM PDT
Since it opened in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge has never been without toll takers. At midnight, that all changes as all-electronic tolling arrives. Tuesday night, toll takers were saying their goodbyes.

All electronic tolling for the Golden Gate Bridge means there's no longer a need for San Francisco's unofficial ambassadors like Jacque Dean.

"We're not obsolete, they chose not to have us here," Dean said.

Dean is leaving a long career and a lot of friends behind.

"I grew up here, the best and worst times of my life spent with people here," Dean said.

Eliminating 28 toll takers will save the Bridge District about $16 million over eight years..

"The savings of doing this automatically opposed to employing people is unavoidable," Golden Gate Bridge Manager Kary Witt said.

There are four ways to pay tolls electronically: FasTrak transponders, registering your license plate and a credit card with the bridge district, one-time online payments and waiting for an invoice in the mail.

But despite months of getting the word out, many people admit they didn't get the memo.

"I think I've heard about it, don't really know when it happens though," driver Helena Au said.

Others worry about gridlock from confused drivers wondering what to do.

"There's going to be people stopping backing things up," driver Ben Abbott-Scott said. "It's a move forward, maybe a few steps back, but forward."

Bridge crews are getting ready for the transition -- there will be signs telling drivers to keep.

Seventeen out of 28 toll takers have transitioned to other jobs or retired. The rest will get a severance package depending on their years of service.