Bay Area committee recommends peak/off-peak tolls at Bay Bridge, new toll on carpools to raise $160m/yr on $475m
By Peter Samuel
Bay Area Toll Authority's (BATA) oversight committee after public hearings and discussion is recommending to the board that different peak, off-peak and weekend toll rates for autos be introduced at their big Bay Bridge and flat rate toll increases be adopted at the other six bridges. Truck tolls would more than double. And for the first time in the Bay Area tolls would be collected from carpool vehicles (mostly 3 or more occupants.)
The proposed toll hikes are estimated to raise an extra $160m/year on the $475m currently raised per year, about a one-third increase.
Tolls are collected one direction only.
The committee produced an estimate that the maximum delay at the bridge will be 21 minutes with the peak/off-peak toll differential ($6 peak, $4 off-peak) versus 27 minutes at present with a flat rate toll of $4 - a 23% reduction in wasted time.
A $7/$4 differential (not recommended) would produce a 32% reduction in peak delays to 18mins.
Peak hours will be 5am to 10am and 3pm to 7pm, the same as current carpool hours.
The recommendation is for a 2-axle base toll of $5 in place of the existing $4 toll applying to all seven bridges. The San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge which has almost as much traffic as the others combined would get the base toll discounted $1 off-peak weekdays, and a peak premium of $1 to make the $6/$4 peak/off-peak differential. Weekend tolls on the Bay Bridge would be the same flat $5.
Carpools to pay half tolls
Carpools (3 or more occupants on five bridges, 2 or more on two bridges) which presently go toll-free in the Bay Area would pay half the base toll rate or $2.50. This rate would also apply to motorbikes and hybrid vehicles. They would be required to open an electronic toll account and get a FasTrak transponder or they would be due to full car rates.
Bigger toll increase for trucks
Trucks would pay the 2-axle toll times the number of their axles. That would b a major increase in tolls. A 3 axle vehicle currently paying $6 would pay $15 (2.5x) and a 5-axle tractor trailer now paying $11.25 would pay $25 (2.2x). BATA points out past smaller increases for trucks eroded differentials, and say this move will restore an earlier toll structure of per-axle toll rates.
The new car tolls would go into effect July 1 2010 and the truck tolls July 1 2011.
Regular cars (mostly single and 2-occupants) would produce about two thirds of the extra revenue, trucks and carpools a sixth each.
Action on the recommendations is scheduled for Jan 27 2010.
The extra revenue goes mostly to support earthquake proofing efforts.
Traffic trend down about 10% over past five years
Traffic on Bay Area bridges has been in decline since the 124.74m peak of 2003-4. There has been a decline in toll traffic every year since. In 2007-08 traffic was 114.57m, 9% down on the peak year. Since then these small annual declines have continued.
BATA officials don't have any very clear explanation for this decline, a reversal of several decades of slow annual growth in traffic. The decline predates the downturn in the economy. Mentioned as likely factors are:
- static employment in the region
- construction work on the bridges
- higher gasoline prices
- toll increases in July 2004 and January 2007
- increases in transit ridership
Nonetheless for planning purposes BATA is projecting an end to the run of annual declines ithat have averaged close to 2%/yr since 2003-4 in 2011, and 0.5%/year increases in traffic from then on out. The graph nearby shows toll traffic plus carpoolers and other non-toll traffic.