By Mark Prado, October 21, 2014
Plans to charge a toll to pedestrians and bicyclists will be examined once again by Golden Gate Bridge officials as the agency looks to keep itself in the black.
"This is something the board's financial advisory committee would like the full board to consider," said Priya Clemens, district spokeswoman, adding public comment would be sought if it moves forward. "But it is by no means set in stone. It's just a concept right now."
The bike and pedestrian tolls appeared on the district's 2009 financial plan, but were deferred because of ongoing maintenance on the sidewalks.
From May 1937 to December 1970, a pedestrian toll was charged and collected via a coin turnstile. The board voted to discontinue a 10-cent toll on Dec. 15, 1970. That year some 48,000 pedestrians crossed the span.
The discussion on re-establishing bike and pedestrian tolls is not new. About 10 years ago the bridge board considered charging tolls to bicyclists and pedestrians, but it backed away from the plan after protest for bike groups. At that time it was estimated such a toll could raise $500,000 to $1.5 million annually.
"The Marin County Bicycle Coalition vehemently opposes fees for the Golden Gate Bridge," said Andy Peri, the group's advocacy director. "The district should be doing everything it can to promote bike transportation, health and reducing greenhouse gases and congestion."
Any kind of fee, even for tourists would be a "slippery slope" he said.
"Imagine if tourists did not use bikes and took rental cars and taxis into Sausalito," Peri said.
On his skateboard Jesse Crawford of Sausalito was ready to cross the span from north to south Monday morning. He crosses the span twice day.
"That would not be ideal for me," he said of a toll. "Maybe for someone walking over the bridge once or twice. I come over the bridge every day. I wouldn't like it."
A group walked on the Golden Gate Bridge earlier this year. The bridge has not charged pedestrian tolls since 1970.
Phanurut Aiyara, a tourist visiting from Boston, thought tourists should pay a one-time fee that would allow them to go back and forth on the span.
"But it's a bad idea for those who want exercise here every day or who have to cross every day," said Aiyara, before walking south across the span.
Under the financial plan the district also may raise vehicle tolls again in 2018. A $1 toll increase went into effect April 1 and drivers will see a 25 cent increase to the toll each year through 2018, bringing the FasTrak toll to $7 and the pay-by-plate toll to $8 by July of that year. Transit fares on district buses and ferries could also continue to rise 5 percent a year.
Personnel costs, the seismic retrofit of the span, a $75 million bill to help pay for the ongoing Doyle Drive upgrade, south tower painting and the partial loss of revenue from a downsized local bus contract with Marin County, have fueled the district's deficit, bridge officials have said.