How the proposed all-lane freeway tolling system would work in Bay Area

Zach Fuentes Image
Wednesday, November 8, 2023
How proposed all-lane freeway tolling system would work in Bay Area
Bay Area transportation officials explain how the proposed all-lane freeway tolling system would work and how much more it would cost drivers.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A new look at plans to bring tolls to most Bay Area freeways was shown Tuesday.

A two-year study was launched in 2022 to look into the possibility of paying to use freeways.

"I hasten to add that this is a planning exercise," said Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) spokesperson John Goodwin. "MTC doesn't have the authority to establish tolls on freeways."

RELATED: Bay Area drivers invited to weigh in on all-lane freeway tolling system

Transit officials are asking Bay Area residents to weigh in on the practicality of an all-lane freeway tolling system.

But the MTC is behind the study looking into it how it could work by 2035.

Though the idea isn't too popular with many drivers we've spoken with, MTC says the study is necessary.

MTC says its projections show that the Bay Area's population will grow by 15 percent, in turn slowing freeway travel times by 13 percent.

"We know that that we want to reduce congestion on freeways. We know that, that we need to reduce driving if we're going to meet the state's emissions reduction targets," Goodwin said. 'How can we get people to take fewer car trips, more transit trips."

The tolling system is one main idea in one scenario being looked at, it would be implemented on congested freeways that run parallel with transit services like Caltrain and cost between 10 to 30 cents per mile depending on the level of congestion.

MORE: Transportation officials consider plan for commuters to pay tolls on busy Bay Area freeways

Tolls would be lower in off-peak hours and gone on nights and weekends.

In one example presented at a Tuesday webinar hosted by MTC, if there's no freeway pricing by 2035, it would take 100 minutes to get from Antioch to San Francisco in a car. It would cost $8 for a bridge toll and $16 for fuel and maintenance, adding up to $24.

In 2035 with freeway pricing, that same drive from Antioch to San Francisco would take 80 minutes and cost $35. The total cost includes an $11 highway toll along with the bridge toll and maintenance costs.

MTC says a driver traveling on high-congestion freeways five days a week for at least 40 miles could pay $270 a month.

MORE: Committee passes bill increasing Bay Area bridge tolls to fund public transportation

One major question brought up is the impact on people who struggle financially.

The study factored in a 50 percent discount for drivers who live in a household that earns less than $55,000 a year and those with disabilities. But even with that discount, those drivers could pay up to $135 monthly.

MTC says this is one of the elements they're still hoping to get feedback on.

"It's a planning exercise, and we've got a few more steps to go in this exercise," Goodwin said. "But ultimately, this feeds into the next edition of our long-term regional transportation plan."

The commission has more opportunities for public feedback on its website.

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