The increase in tolls to ease rush hour traffic on the Bay Bridge may not be working exactly as planned. New numbers reveal the toll structure doesn't appear to be a big enough incentive to keep people off the road during the peak hours.
During the morning commute, every minute counts on the bridge, especially when the clock goes from 4:59 a.m. to 5:00 a. m. At that time the toll jumps $2 to $6 per vehicle until 10:00 a. m. Drivers also pay the higher price from 3:00 p. m. to 7 p. m.
Congestive pricing was implemented in 2010, in an effort to reduce traffic. Four years later, there's more traffic.
Blame it on the economy. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission says the plan was put in place during the early stages of the great recession and as the jobs came back, so did the cars.
"We've got a lot more people working in the Bay Area now, than we did four years ago. Consequently, there's a lot more traffic and it's not just on the Bay Bridge; it's elsewhere on the freeway system. It's on the transit systems. That's the number one driver of demand on the transportation systems all around the Bay Area," said MTC spokesperson Jim Goodwin.
The daily average of cars before the congestive pricing went into effect was about 125,000. It actually went down that first year to just under 124,000 vehicles. But now that the economy is revving up, so is traffic. During the week of April 28 to May 2 of this year, 131,484 cars went over the Bay Bridge daily.
Goodwin says the congestive pricing plan has worked, pushing a few hundred drivers outside the peak commute hours.
But drivers wonder if this incentive is really a punishment for people who work the traditional 9-to-5 day.
"I get why they're doing it, but it is sort of penalizing the people who have to be at work at a certain time. We don't have that flexibility of choosing what time to come in," said commuter Alice Chin.
"I think it's more punishment to people, because people have no other options but to commute over the bridge so they have to pay the price for it," said commuter Sadat Mousa.
The MTC says there are no plans to change the congestive pricing plan. They do expect, in the next couple of years, for the cash lane to disappear; just like it did on the Golden Gate Bridge.
Congestive pricing on Bay Bridge may not be working