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Friday, October 24, 2014

The Golden Gate Bridge Board Talks Pedestrian Tolls, But Still Hasn't Made Up Its Mind

Posted By on Fri, Oct 24, 2014 at 3:45 PM

click to enlarge spokesman.jpg

Today, the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District’s Board of Directors voted in favor of at least considering tolls for cyclists and pedestrians along the city's most iconic landmark.

That's one way of not saying yes while not saying no. 

So really the action today isn't a win or a loss for bike and pedestrian advocates yet —  it just means that the Board will study the tolls as one possibility to help offset the $33 million deficit projected over the next five years.

So yeah, having to shell out for a bike ride across the bridge is a possibility in the future. 

The meeting was chock-full of the usual suspects: bike activists, pedestrians, tourist companies, and people who just don't want to pay one more fee. And the comments were primarily one-sided, coming from those against the potential tolls; their comments did nothing to convince the 10 board members who voted against the measure to strike the bike and pedestrian toll items from the working budget entirely. The board, which consists of 19 members, passed its budget plan 14-5.

click to enlarge The future site of a toll?
  • The future site of a toll?

Tyler Frisbee of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition pointed out that this is a waste of time for San Francisco.

“You’ve done the study in the past," he said. "A bridge that's only for paying customers is not the message we want to send to the rest of the world.”

Similar measures were considered in 2009, and every five years or so before that. In fact, pedestrians were once required to pay a toll when the bridge was first built. From May 1937 to 1970, pedestrians walking the Golden Gate Bridge were required to drop payment in a coin turnstile. There's not been a toll since. 

Other speakers pointed out that nowhere else in the world requires pedestrians to pay tolls, noting that programs in Norway actually pay people to bike or walk to reduce traffic jams and improve air quality. Director Dave Snyder, who was pushing the board to forget about even studying the impact of tolls in the budget package said, “I think we’re voting on it philosophically. Do we really want to charge a fee to walk on this bridge?”

But forcing pedestrians or bikes to pay a dollar or two probably won’t do much to plug up the $33 million deficit. In fact, it probably wouldn’t make up more than $1 million in a best possible scenario, according to Director Snyder.

Also, even if you drive across the bridge, there’s probably a pretty good reason to oppose the toll: if you discourage biking across the bridge you’ll probably just have more cars clogging up the lanes.

In any event, if you’re opposed to a bike toll then you still have time to get your point across. Sign onto this position statement  from the SFBC or tweet at @ggbridge

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About The Author

Leif Haven

Leif Haven

Leif Haven is a writer and cyclist living in the Bay Area. He can be spotted dragging himself up a hill — literally and metaphorically.

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