Bay Area lawmakers propose $1.50 bridge toll increase to save public transit

ByLena Howland KGO logo
Tuesday, June 27, 2023
Bay Area lawmakers want $1.50 bridge toll hike to save public transit
Bay Area lawmakers are proposing a new bill that would raise the tolls on bridges by $1.50 in efforts to bail out struggling public transit agencies.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Weeks after California lawmakers agreed to bail out struggling public transit agencies across the state, with $1.1 billion, State Senator Scott Wiener says it's still not enough.

"Because it doesn't solve the problem completely, the Bay Area, we need to do some regional self-help," Wiener said.

He's proposing a new bill that would raise the tolls on all Bay Areas bridges, except the Golden Gate, by $1.50 for the next 5 years.

This includes the Bay Bridge, the San Mateo Bridge and the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, to name a few.

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Lawmakers are looking to make up a $2.5 billion deficit.

But keep in mind, tolls at these bridges were already scheduled to increase by $1 in January 2025.

"That will generate a significant sum of money to make sure that BART does not have to eliminate night time and weekend service or an entire line, to make sure that Muni doesn't eliminate 15 bus lines entirely," Wiener said.

Senator Steve Glazer, out of the East Bay opposes the plan.

"I'm reminded of the quote, 'fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me,' I've seen this story before," Glazer said.

MORE: BART moves to increase fares over next 2 years amid decline in ridership

He says lawmakers were already asked to and increased bridge tolls back in 2018, with the promise of having effective oversight of transit agencies, including creating the Office of Inspector General of BART.

"Since that time they have started that office, they have limited the power of oversight of that office, and so they're coming back to us now and saying after breaking their promises, that we should raise the tolls and trust them that they'll do the oversight and I don't," he said.

Something Lee Ross, an occasional BART rider in the East Bay, agrees with.

"I'd like to see more accountability if we're going to move forward with additional tolls," Ross said. "I have concerns on how money has been spent in the past."

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While other drivers who rely on taking the bridge every day into work, don't love the idea of spending more.

"I feel like it's already expensive," Ashton Haynes, a Benicia resident said. "I have to take the bridge to and from for work, so it's like more than $14 both ways already."

Senator Wiener says there is accountability already built into this proposal and a portion is set aside for the most important issues to transit riders: safety, cleanliness and reliability.

"Bottom line, the question for all of us is, do we want our constituents to be able to get to work, to get to school, to get to doctor's appointments, to get to the senior center?" Wiener said. "It is in no one's interest to eliminate nighttime or weekend BART service."

Wiener added that this only a temporary, emergency fix and by 2026, the Bay Area may need to go to the ballot for a more long-term, sustainable funding source.

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