All-electronic Golden Gate Bridge toll coming soon

With Golden Gate Bridge officials ready to begin the process of moving toward all-electronic tolls next month, a push by the district to get more people to use FasTrak is under way.

The bridge district's Board of Directors has already voted to eliminate the 32 toll-takers on the span. The move, among other steps, will help bail the district out of a $66 million budget shortfall over the next five years.

Once the toll-takers are off the span -- likely in February -- only electronic payments will be accepted. In anticipation, the bridge district is encouraging those who do not have FasTrak transponders to sign up for them. A pre-paid account, typically set up with a credit card, is required. Tolls are deducted with each crossing and replenished. A statement is sent to motorists monthly documenting each crossing.

Presently seven out of 10 people who cross the span have FasTrak; the highest percentage are morning and afternoon commuters. Of those who travel between 6 and 10 a.m., 86 percent use FasTrak. During the afternoon commute between 4 and 6 p.m., 74 percent use electronic tolls.

The more people who have FasTrak, the easier the transition to life without toll-takers, who have been part of the fabric of the bridge since it opened in 1937. The district will save roughly $19 million over eight years in salaries and benefits when toll-takers are gone. A toll-taker's base annual salary starts at $48,672 and tops out at $54,080. It will cost $3.2 million, however, to get the all-electronic system up and running.

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