Freeway traffic from Cesar Chavez Street in San Francisco to the Yerba Buena Island Tunnel is the most congested segment of the Bay Area, according to an annual study.

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Here Come Higher Tolls

The January 1 Increase Explained

KCBS Radio Morning News
December 14, 2018 - 6:36 am

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS Radio) -- Roadside message boards tell Bay Area commuters to expect a bridge toll increase on January 1. They don't spell out the details.

We're here to help. The simplest version of the story is this: tolls on all of the state-operated bridges in the region (that is, all bridges except the Golden Gate Bridge) will rise by $1. The exception: those who use the carpool lane will see tolls rise by 50 cents.

The toll increases are mandated by Regional Measure 3, passed by Bay Area voters in June. It will fund  $4.5 billion worth of transportation improvements, ranging from a BART extension into Santa Clara to new lanes on Highway 101 in the North Bay to expanded ferry service.

The breakdown of who pays what, when, and where can get a bit complicated.  Bay Bridge crossings will increase to $7 between 5am and 10am, $5 between 10am and 3pm as well as between 7pm and 5am, and $6 at all hours on weekends.

The Antioch, Benicia-Martinez, Carquinez, Dumbarton, Richmond – San Rafael, and San Mateo Bridges will all see tolls increase from the current $5 to $6 at all hours and on all days.

Carpoolers will see tolls on all seven bridges rise from the current $2.50 to $3.

For most commuters, the increased tolls will only be felt in the abstract. Regional transportation officials say 80% of the motorists crossing the Bay Bridge during peak hours do so with the Fastrak electronic toll payment system.

This is the first in a series of three toll inreases; by 2025, the top Bay Bridge toll will reach $9.

But these tolls actually represent a bargain, argues John Goodwin, spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. He points out the Bay Bridge toll in 1936, when the bridge opened, was 65 cents in each direction for a total of $1.30 for a daily commute.

"$1.30 in November of 1936," said Goodwin, "has the same buying power as $23.40 today." And, Goodwin points out, 1936 tolls required an extra nickel for each passenger--essentially a reversal of the modern practice of providing a price break for carpoolers.