Bay Area transit officials exploring plan to charge all drivers to use certain highways

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Bay Area transit officials are exploring a plan to charge drivers to use certain Bay Area freeways in an effort to reduce congestion and drive down greenhouse emissions.

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission discussed the plan during a meeting on Thursday.

"It's how can we move more people in fewer cars," explained MTC spokesperson John Goodwin.

Despite more people adopting telecommuting during the pandemic, the agency projects that the population and congestion in the Bay Area will continue to increase in the coming years.

RELATED: Tolls increase by $1 on state-owned bridges in Bay Area

"This is a way for instance, to keep the region moving with 2 million additional people, 1 million additional jobs that are expected to be here by 2050," said Goodwin. "And at the same time to meet the greenhouse gas emissions reduction requirements in state law."

The agency said the planning study would take at least two years and that any tolls would not be implemented for at least a decade.

But the plan is still drawing a strong response from drivers..

RELATED: Bay Area's MTC approves plan to make 60% of workers remote by 2050

"I think that's a bad idea, I don't think we should charge because everyone uses their cars," said Bay Area driver Kelly Tang.

Members of the MTC also expressed concern about the equity of the plan.

RELATED: Bay Area bridges go all-electronic with toll collection

"I have a lot of senior friends that cannot afford paying pricing," said Pat Eklund, MTC member and Novato City Council Member.
MTC spokesperson John Goodwin says looking into equity issues is exactly what the two year study is about.

"If you maybe answer that question with exemptions from tolls or discounts on tolls... then does the does the model work at all?" said Goodwin.

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