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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

S.F. Tourists Getting Screwed by New Golden Gate Bridge Tolling System

Posted By on Tue, Jul 30, 2013 at 2:02 PM

click to enlarge Pretty ... pretty deceiving
  • Pretty ... pretty deceiving

Bay Area denizens are well aware that toll collection at the Golden Gate Bridge has become solely electronic, with FasTrak and online payments as our only way to cross into the city by car.

But what about those enthusiastic yet ignorant tourists who only have cash in hand? Turns out, just like the rest of us, they are also getting slapped with fees and fines for not following the new bridge-crossing rules, according to the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. And they have 21 days to pay it.

As KCBS, recently noted, tourists in rental cars are getting screwed. Take the Eddy family from Springfield, Illinois, for instance. They crossed the Golden Gate Bridge on a recent family trip with a rental car, only to later be billed by the rental company for a toll they didn't know they had to pay.

"I noticed there was a toll but I didn't see anywhere to pay it," Eddy said to KCBS. "When I rented the car they mentioned nothing at all about FasTrak or anything else."

The KCBS reporter went ahead and did some digging. He contacted several rental companies himself and asked if, as a renter, he needed anything else along with the car to get around the Bay Area. "I was always told 'no,'" the reporter wrote.

"Rental cars will be a challenge for a while in the San Francisco market," said Golden Gate Bridge spokeswoman Mary Currie to KCBS. "People don't know to say, 'Hey, what's the tolling program?'"

Currie noted that with many rental car companies there is an added processing fee to a Toll Invoice, between $2.95 and $9.95. Add that to your already $6 toll and you're out about $16 just to get those (foggy) bridge pictures on your Facebook page.

In a city that's already a pricy place to visit, will these added headaches deter tourists? "Absolutely not," says Tom Kiely, executive vice president of tourism for the San Francisco Travel Association.

Kiely says the Association hasn't received any complaints from tourists about this as of yet, and even if it was bothersome, it's not enough to keep visitors from flocking to the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge.

"I think it's not the easiest system for tourists to utilize, especially those who are not informed about the change, or haven't been to San Francisco since it changed, but I can't see that as a way to just stop people from coming here," Kiely told us. "There's much more to this city than toll issues."

So there you have it: Just like they have to adapt to the steep hills and steep food prices, tourists will somehow figure out the new tolling system -- even if they have to learn the hard way.

The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway, and Transportation District website will explain it to you tourists out there.

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Natalia Aldana

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