SAN FRANCISCO - Golden Gate Bridge toll-takers began handing out cards Wednesday to cash-paying customers letting them know that method of payment no longer will be an option by the end of March.
Golden Gate Bridge officials plan to roll out all-electronic tolls and have set a tentative date of March 27 for it to begin. Before that happens they want to get to the 30 percent of bridge users who still pay their $6 toll by cash.
"We want to target our local, regular cash paying customers," said Mary Currie, bridge district spokeswoman.
The cards, with detailed information on how to sign up for electronic tolls, are being handed out during non-peak periods, when the district sees the most people who
pay by cash.
"During the morning commute we have 86 percent of people paying by Fastrak," Currie said. "But the percentage during the midday and weekends is much (lower.)"
Life for those drivers who have Fastrak will remain unchanged when the change occurs; they will continue to pay electronically a discounted $5 to cross the span. But the thousands of people who use cash will have to find a new way to pay.
Cameras at the toll plaza will be used for a "pay-by-plate" system that will assess tolls based on license plate numbers to the registered owner of the vehicle on file with the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Those users will pay $6 per crossing.
The cameras at the toll plaza will record images of license plates.
Then electronically, the toll can then be assessed to a license plate account opened online. Paying by credit card online is likely the easiest option, bridge officials said.
Those who do not do anything will be mailed a bill for the toll with a payment due in 21 days.
The district also announced a new website: www.goldengate.org/tolls to provide information to drivers.
While the toll-takers are still on the span, the all electronic toll system is being tested now.
"It has been going very smoothly," said Jessica Handcock, a consultant with Traffic Technologies Inc., which is working with the bridge district on the project.
Golden Gate Bridge officials are eliminating 32 toll-taker positions, among other steps, to help bail the district out of a $66 million budget shortfall over the next five years. When the plan was put into place, there were 28 active toll-takers. Half of those have since retired or have found others jobs within the district, while 14 face layoffs.
While the all-electronic tolls are expected to speed times though the toll plaza, the bridge will lose the human element, bridge officials acknowledged.
"We are losing the face of the district," Currie said.
Contact Mark Prado via email at email@example.com
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