Golden Gate Bridge goes to all-electronic tolls

Traffic flows over the Golden Gate Bridge during the morning commute in San Francisco.

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is going electronic today. It’s the first time in 76-years, that the iconic bridge will be without a human toll taker.

The most obvious reason for going all-electronic is to save money. In the case of the Golden Gate Bridge, they’re saying the move will save $16 million  in eight years -- that’s mostly salaries and benefits.

Of course there’s a human toll -- nine people lost their jobs. Another 17 are being placed elsewhere or are retiring.

But Patrick Jones, the executive director of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association says San Francisco is following a nationwide trend.

"You’ve seen it happen on the Tobin Bridge in Boston. You’ve seen entire systems switching to all electronic tolling in Denver, Colorado; Dallas, Texas; the North Texas Tollway Authority; Austin, Texas," says Jones.

Christopher Zegras is a professor of transportation and urban planning at MIT. And he says the “big picture” isn’t just about saving money but finding more ways to fund our decaying highways.

"I predict within the next 10 years we will have a system that’s much less based on the gas tax and much more based on we pay for what we use," Zegras says.

And, Zegras adds, electronic toll technology will pave the way to that future.  

About the author

Queena Kim covers technology for Marketplace. She lives in the Bay Area.

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