Q Like other readers, I find the plans for changing the Golden Gate Bridge toll system to be ridiculous. Although I would not accuse you of flippancy, I would say you clearly don't get it when you say "keeping one booth open for cash payments might make delays worse" -- translation: to hell with the needs of the few.

Given your role as a traffic columnist, I think that rather than acting as an apologist for this awful plan you should be acting as an advocate for consumers who will be victimized. The absurdness of your current position is underlined by the number of words you have had to write to explain the new system.

As a frequent reader of your column, I can say I have never disagreed with you more.

Robert Woolard

Yosemite West

A Here's the deal. While removing all toll takers and converting to an all-electronic tolling system is new to us, it's not new in some parts of the U.S. or in other countries. It will be a pain for some drivers initially, and the opening March 27 is sure to invite some chaos. But if you have FasTrak or sign up for a credit-card account, you'll be fine.

But leaving one lane open to cash-only customers could be a disaster, as drivers cut across lanes at the last minute to jockey for position. One thing I've learned in 22 years on this beat is to give this a few weeks before you render judgment. If problems persist into the summer, feel free to call me absurd.


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Today, about 70 percent of bridge users use FasTrak and about 30 percent pay in cash.

But I do have sympathy for one group of bridge users -- tourists.

Q I cannot find any information on what happens if you cross the bridge in a rental car. My sister is flying into Oakland in April, renting a car, driving to Santa Rosa to visit our mom, and then driving down to visit me in Menlo Park. How does she pay the toll on the Golden Gate?

Peg Austin

Menlo Park

A Make sure she discusses tolling policies and any fees the company may charge with the rental agent at the time of her reservation. Some may allow her to opt out of a tolling program. If not, the rental company will be mailed a toll invoice and she may be hit with some hefty fees.

Go to www.goldengate.org/tolls/tolltipsforvisitors.php for more information.

Q Nineteen states issue only one license plate for the rear. In other words, there is no front plate. I assume the Golden Gate Bridge system will take pictures of the rear plate? Two of those states are Arizona and Michigan. I have visitors from those states and they wanted to know.

Stan Kowalczyk

A Yes. Each toll lane has cameras that read both plates.

Q Since the Golden Gate Bridge is removing toll takers, there is no reason that the FasTrak transponders need to be at the current plaza. If they moved the transponder readers to the north end of the bridge, similar to what is in place on the Martinez Bridge, then removed or minimized the toll booths on the outside of the plaza, the cars with transponders can be directed to those lanes and pass through with little reduction in traffic flow. Why not read the transponders before the plaza and eliminate the need to slow or stop at the plaza?

Bob Meacham

Cupertino

A Not going to happen. Golden Gate officials say the lane configuration is tight and they lack the room to do any special toll reconfiguration. But the speed limit through the toll booths will be raised from 5 mph to probably 25 mph. A meeting will be held Thursday to discuss this.

Q What is going to happen during the carpool hours -- $3 per 3+-person carpool rate -- when the new tolling plan goes into effect on the Golden Gate?

Stephen Reynolds

Santa Cruz

A During carpool hours from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, lane No. 2 on the right side will be for carpoolers or drivers with white DMV-issued clean air decals. They must also have FasTrak to receive the $3 carpool toll.

Eligible carpool vehicles include motorcycles, buses and two-axle vehicles with three or more persons.

But two-seat vehicles and vehicles with rear-axle dual tires do not qualify on the Golden Gate. Also vehicles bearing the green DMV-issued clean air vehicle decal do not qualify for the discounted toll rate of $3.

Follow Gary Richards at twitter.com/mrroadshow, look for him at facebook.com/mr.roadshow or contact him at mrroadshow@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5335.