After one month of all-electronic tolling on the Golden Gate Bridge, officials reported more drivers are opening and utilizing FasTrak accounts, though some are still unclear on the new speed and carpool regulations.
The historic link between San Francisco and Marin County officially shifted to all-electronic tolling on March 27, thereby eliminating the need for human toll-takers – a decision that was met with expected pushback, as some claimed the toll collectors were integral to the genuine bridge experience.
However, the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District claimed its actions were intended to improve efficiency while reducing expenses.
Since then, the district has reported a relatively smooth transition with only a few setbacks, including confusion about speed limits in the toll plaza, district spokeswoman Mary Currie said.
Last week, the district released data on the first 30 days of its new tolling program.
The data, presented to the district’s board of directors April 26, indicates that many drivers are opting to utilize FasTrak to comply with the bridge’s new system.
Tolls on the Golden Gate Bridge can now be paid using FasTrak, license plate accounts, one-time payment kiosks or invoices sent to the vehicle’s registered owner.
During the first 17 days of all-electronic tolling – March 27 to April 12 – FasTrak users accounted for 81.4 percent of all southbound bridge crossings, according to district officials. By comparison, FasTrak users accounted for 69.3 percent of southbound crossings during the same time period in 2012.
The data indicated that FasTrak use on the Golden Gate Bridge has increased across the board in the past year, jumping from 72 percent to 83.3 percent during weekdays and from 59 percent to 74.1 percent during weekends, according to district officials.
There has also been a significant increase in the number of payment accounts opened during the past months.
The number of new license plate accounts went from zero in January to 3,932 in March, according to district officials. The number of one-time payment accounts also increased from four in January to 3,433 in March.
A license plate account allows a driver to register his or her plate with the district. The driver then receives a bill each month based on the number of crossings made; whereas, a one-time payment account allows a driver to pay for his or her crossings in advance at a kiosk.
Additionally, FasTrak account openings increased from 13,631 in January to 30,627 in March, according to district officials. However, FasTrak is used by other toll bridges in the Bay Area.
The data also indicated that drivers are incorrectly driving through the toll plaza in the carpool lane.
During carpool hours – 5-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. – some vehicles with two occupants are using the Carpool Only lane, which requires three or more people per two-axle vehicle, Currie said.
To use the carpool only lane, a FasTrak account is required, Currie said. Motorcycles, buses and vehicles with a white DMV clean air decal also are allowed. The lane is open to all during non-carpool hours.
The carpool lane on U.S. Highway 101 north of the bridge requires two or more people.
Currie said the district has also had problems with drivers passing through the toll plaza above the posted 25 mph speed limit.
The California Highway Patrol was purposely visible at the toll plaza during the first few days of all-electronic tolling, reminding drivers to slow down.
"Now, 30 days into the new tolling program, we are starting to see some of the highway speeds returning," Currie said. "We want to educate and remind motorists that the speed limit in the toll lanes is 25 mph.”
The educational and readjustment period for the new tolling program will end soon and CHP enforcement will begin, Currie said.
Bay City News contributed to this report.
Contact Gregory Andersen at email@example.com.