Bridge officials examine video tolling

February 14, 2008 10:09:55 AM PST
Something else for our morning commuters to think about -- a future where no one pays cash, or has to use FasTrak, to cross a Bay Area Bridge. Local transportation planners have decided to study a plan to use video cameras to capture license plates, then sending you a bill.

FasTrak would still stay be in place. This new idea is all about replacing the cash paying lanes. Instead of stopping to pay at the toll booth, this video tolling system would allow drivers to whiz on by and pay later.

Currently the only drivers who don't have to stop at toll booths on Bay Area bridges are carpoolers and those who have a FasTrak tag. But the FasTrak lanes have been a persistent problem with some commuters cheating -- by driving right through without the electronic tags.

To try to update how tolls are collected, the Bay Area Toll Authority has decided to commission a $600,000 feasibility study on using a video system to collect the $4 dollar bridge tolls from cash-payers.

Benefits include easing congestion and pollution from idling cars, but the idea of a camera recording your license plate, so you pay later, doesn't go over so well for some commuters.

"That's ridiculous, yeah, how are they going to make sure you pay it?" asked Aaron Cameron, commuter.

"Send you a bill to your home, based on your license plate," said ABC7's Teresa Garcia.

"I'd never pay it," said Aaron Cameron.

"If it's connected to your credit card and so yeah then it is. But if it's not, and it's just a bill sent to your house, then it's not a good idea. We'd lose money on it. The city and everything," said Janice Samifua, commuter.

Like FasTrak, but without needing the tag, the system could automatically deduct your tolls from a credit card linked account. But some express privacy concerns. Other drawbacks include the loss of toll collector jobs, plus the higher overhead costs to process photos, send bills, manage payments and track down cheats.

Video tolling is not new, it's in use on certain roads in Dallas, Tampa and in Toronto, Canada even Israel. In the Bay Area the feasibility study should be complete by this fall, but then it could take until 2009 before testing could begin, so it could be years before its put in place.