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All-electronic tolling coming to Golden Gate Bridge next year

The Golden Gate Bridge
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The Golden Gate Bridge

Starting next year, human toll collectors on the Golden Gate Bridge will be a thing of the past.

Cash will no longer be accepted. Instead, motorists will have three electronic payment choices, including the widely used FasTrak and two “Pay-By-Plate” options.

The district will photograph the license plate of any car that doesn’t have an operating FasTrak device and charge the owner, either through an established account or by mailing a bill. Currently, bridge cameras take license plate photos only of potential toll violators, bridge officials say.

About 70 percent of drivers who cross the bridge use FasTrak, and officials expect an additional 10 percent to sign on when all-electric tolling arrives. That means about 20 percent of the motorists crossing the bridge will have their license plates photographed, bridge spokeswoman Mary Currie said.

The bridge district found in focus groups that some drivers who do not use FasTrak reject the device because of concerns about their privacy. Those motorists may not like having their license plates photographed any better.

Currie said officials aren’t quite sure yet what they will do with all the pictures.

Currently, photos that are snapped of potential toll violators go to a customer service center where workers try to figure out if they had a malfunctioning FasTrak device or if they truly were shirking the toll.

Under a 2011 law, data collected for electronic tolls must be dumped within four and a half years. The law also bars the information from being sold to third parties.

Currie said most of the photos are discarded after 30 days. But bridge officials haven’t sorted out yet how to deal with the influx of photos that the all-electronic switch will bring.

“How long will we keep them?” Currie asked. “I can’t say.”

Bridge officials will introduce the new payment options this December. Flesh-and-blood toll operators will continue to staff FasTrak/cash toll lanes until they are completely phased out in February.

Starting in February, drivers can avail themselves of one of these three choices:

1. FasTrak: Officials call FasTrak the “preferred method” of payment. The small plastic toll tag is mounted inside cars and read by an antennae attached to the tollbooth, which deducts the toll from a prepaid account. FasTrak users will pay a $5 bridge toll; everyone else will pay $6.

And two “Pay-By-Plate” options:

2. License Plate Account: Drivers will be able to link their license plates to debit and credit cards or pay up-front in cash.

3. One-Time Payment: A one-time payment, linked to a license plate, can be made either during the 30-day period before crossing or two days after crossing. The toll also can be paid using debit, credit or cash.

Drivers who do nothing will get a bill for the toll in the mail. They’ll have 21 days to pay it or be considered in violation. Motorists will be able to pay the bills online, over the phone or at a few cash pay stations that will be set up prior to the conversion to all-electronic tolling. Those who don’t pay in 21 days will receive a fine of $25 on top of the bridge toll. Fines will be waived if the violator opts to open a FasTrak account.

Bridge officials say that converting to all-electronic toll collection will save about $19 million over an eight-year period.

Read more about the change here.

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