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Golden Gate Bridge To Eliminate Tollbooths

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the your-check-is-in-the-email dept.

Businesses 349

Hugh Pickens writes writes "The San Francisco Chronicle reports that tollbooths and toll collectors, a fixture at the Golden Gate Bridge since it opened in 1937, will be eliminated starting in 2012 as the bridge moves to an all-electronic system, cutting 34 jobs and saving $19.2 million over the first eight years. The bridge will move to a toll collection strategy that combines the existing FasTrak system with one that photographs the license plates of cars going through the toll plaza and mails a bill to the registered owners. Other structures and bridges have successfully gone to all-electronic tolls, including the Sydney Harbor Bridge in Australia and the Leeville Bridge in Louisiana, but not everyone is happy with the change. 'This is a world-famous bridge, and you need a human face,' says Philip Hynes. 'You need people in those toll booths to greet people.'"

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349 comments

Electronic tolls way faster (5, Insightful)

Loomismeister (1589505) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042760)

I'd much rather cruise through tolls without having to stop, and I really have no desire to see these human toll booth operators.

Clean air anyone? Traffic jams? (4, Interesting)

name_already_taken (540581) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042810)

Further, what these idiots fail to realize is that all those cars idling at and then accelerating away from the tollbooths add up to a huge emissions source - something which California says they're always concerned about.

In the last decade they added "Open-road tolling" on the tollways around Chicago - the air quality was measurably improved in the areas near the toll-collection sites.

The bridges in the bay area are also major commuter routes - eliminating the requirement for every car to stop at a toll booth can only improve traffic flow.

For everyone who loves the toll collectors, I bet there are hundreds who hate them. I remember a story in one of the Chicago papers about all the bad things people would do to the toll collectors - like heating up coins using the car's cigarette lighter before giving them to the collector. The exhaust gasses those folks have to breathe all day can't be good for them either.

Re:Clean air anyone? Traffic jams? (3, Interesting)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043038)

For everyone who loves the toll collectors, I bet there are hundreds who hate them.

Why? What have they done. Or is it because they are the minions of the people who put the rules in place? In that case, is it OK to hate the military people for doing the same?

Because then I am confused, because I admire what they do but hat why they do it.

Re:Clean air anyone? Traffic jams? (1, Troll)

mr exploiter (1452969) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043112)

What's wrong with hatting the military?

Re:Clean air anyone? Traffic jams? (5, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043318)

What's wrong with hatting the military?

Nothing really. A bit redundant in all, they already have hats. But if you insist....

Re:Clean air anyone? Traffic jams? (2)

coolmadsi (823103) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043120)

For everyone who loves the toll collectors, I bet there are hundreds who hate them.

Why? What have they done. Or is it because they are the minions of the people who put the rules in place? In that case, is it OK to hate the military people for doing the same?

Because then I am confused, because I admire what they do but hat why they do it.

I don't drive (or live in the USA), but I would assume its less what they've done and more the simple fact that they are the person who is there preventing them from getting to work/home/other faster because they have to stop and wait. It is the toll collector who is slowing down their journey (or it may be perceived that way). I wont try to think of an example of a soldier's action that you would dislike them for doing for risk of hyperbole.

TL;DR: I doubt its personal, its just they're the one who is there doing it (like how people get annoyed at someone in a call centre).

Re:Electronic tolls way faster (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35043004)

I'd like to know how sad and lonely someone would have to be before they're disappointed by the lack of human interaction at a toll booth.

rental car? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35042770)

so how does that work?

Re:rental car? (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042808)

so how does that work?

Or a brand new car without plates yet?

Re:rental car? (1)

omglolbah (731566) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042886)

You can legally drive on the road without plates?.......

Re:rental car? (1)

whovian (107062) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042962)

I used to see "LAF" (License Applied For) signs in the plate frames or showing through the rear window. If it is legal, I'm sure there would be a temporary registration card that should be kept in the vehicle.

Re:rental car? (1)

RoFLKOPTr (1294290) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043032)

You can legally drive on the road without plates?.......

I know a lot of states give you temporary license plates bearing your number, but California just makes you keep your registration application folded up and taped inside the windshield and that is valid for 60 days I believe so you have time for your permanent plates to arrive.

Re:rental car? (1)

pnewhook (788591) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043270)

Depends what state/province you live in. Some let you have a printed licence taped to your window. Where I live you *must* be plated and you have to order your plate when you buy your car and have it installed at the dealer. Or if its a private sale you have to bring your plate you want to use with you.

Re:rental car? (5, Informative)

magarity (164372) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042852)

Oh, it's tremendous fun to go through an automated toll with a rental car. First the toll authority sends a bill for $1 to the rental company. Then the rental company charges your card (that's still in their system) for $15 based on the fine print in the rental agreement. A run through a lengthy toll road with five or six toll monitors results in individual bills for each one and can get you a bill from the rental company for a hundred or more.

"You need a human face" (5, Insightful)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042774)

No you don't.

You need to eliminate the 5-minute backup at the toll booth, and thereby save yourself ~2000 hours over a lifetime. You don't need the human face, just as you don't need an operator asking, "Number please?" on the telephone.

Re:"You need a human face" (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042874)

No you don't.

You need to eliminate the 5-minute backup at the toll booth, and thereby save yourself ~2000 hours over a lifetime. You don't need the human face, just as you don't need an operator asking, "Number please?" on the telephone.

+1 insightful.

I too hate waiting in toll booth lineups.

Re:"You need a human face" (1)

Moryath (553296) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043248)

Have to agree.

Though it's going to be very, very interesting the first time some guy gets a bill and the photo shows that it was either (a) a stolen car or (b) some asshole from a valet service taking a joyride.

Can we have it for the Severn Bridges as well? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35042780)

Will make it easier to go to Wales and back.

Re:Can we have it for the Severn Bridges as well? (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042944)

It's already easy to go from Wales. There are only tolls entering Wales, to keep the riff-raff out.

Works great in Dallas (2)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042788)

Personally I love the tollway system here in Dallas (not that I use it much, public highways are FREE so to speak). Drive on, drive off, you get a bill at the end of the month with a summary of the charges. For someone who doesn't regularly use cash, it makes my life just a little bit easier. The other alternative is keeping a transponder in your car... not really my cup of tea.
 
But yeah, long story short we've had the system in effect on portions of Hwy 121 now for about 6 years and it's just recently gone live on the main "Dallas Tollway" with zero issues.

Re:Works great in Dallas (1)

wkk2 (808881) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042894)

These systems are nothing but trouble if you find yourself on a road without booths and you are in a rental car. You either pay a high daily rate plus usage, to get a car with a transponder, or you really get zapped if they forward a bill a month later

Re:Works great in Dallas (2)

humphrm (18130) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043320)

Yeah but it works out great if you don't rent a car and drive an out-of-state vehicle... they don't bill out-of-state plates at all!

Who would pay that bill? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35042792)

They're going to *mail* bills? Seriously? So, those that haven't got a FasTrac basically get across the bridge for free... A lot of the time anyway.

Re:Who would pay that bill? (1)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042928)

They're going to *mail* bills?

Works pretty well here (Vancouver, Canada). You get a bill, you go online, enter your license plate and CC # and pay the bill. Of course the toll is $4, so it makes more sense to mail out a bill.

Re:Who would pay that bill? (1)

RoFLKOPTr (1294290) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043070)

They're going to *mail* bills? Seriously? So, those that haven't got a FasTrac basically get across the bridge for free... A lot of the time anyway.

No, because if you don't pay your bill you will have bigger problems than the $6 charge to get across the bridge. Also, FasTrak is still $1 cheaper on the GGB, so there's some incentive there to get it.

Saving $19.2M over the first eight years...how? (2)

hazee (728152) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042794)

So, $19.2 million, divided by 8 years, divided by 34 people equals...
The toll-collectors get paid $70K per year?

Re:Saving $19.2M over the first eight years...how? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35042824)

So, $19.2 million, divided by 8 years, divided by 34 people equals...

The toll-collectors get paid $70K per year?

benefits aren't free - health insurance, retirement benefits, etc.

Re:Saving $19.2M over the first eight years...how? (3, Informative)

peragrin (659227) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043078)

If you get paid $50k a year your employer is paying close to $70k to keep you as an employee.

or do you think that health insurance, workers comp, 401k, etc are all magically free?

Re:Saving $19.2M over the first eight years...how? (4, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042832)

So, $19.2 million, divided by 8 years, divided by 34 people equals...

The toll-collectors get paid $70K per year?

That cost probably includes their medical insurance, the employer's portion of SS and other taxes, vacation time, etc.

Re:Saving $19.2M over the first eight years...how? (1)

scosco62 (864264) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042884)

Yeah, that makes sense. Usually, you bundle in a 30% bump for those items, for budgetary purposes. Plus workman;s comp ins. etc etc

Re:Saving $19.2M over the first eight years...how? (1)

hazee (728152) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043018)

Interesting. Honestly curious Brit here - I know that US employees suffer lower levels of personal income tax than in the UK (or Europe) but I'm wondering if your employers pay more?

Re:Saving $19.2M over the first eight years...how? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043222)

The employer part of SS tax is around 6% [wikipedia.org]. I can't imagine workers comp payments are very high for tollbooth collectors, even in California, but depending how much the employer pays for health insurance, it could be between $5k and $12k USD on top of that for health insurance.

Re:Saving $19.2M over the first eight years...how? (1)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043282)

The employer usually kicks in for half of the employee's Social Security payments (7.some percent of the income, I think?), and pay for some, most, or all of the health/dental/vision insurance premium payments, which can vary. There are employers (quite a few, actually) who pay no insurance, but it is often done as a benefit to attract talent, so most usually pay for at least some of it. Employers will often also pay a percentage towards an employee's 401k (personal retirement fund) up to a set percentage (it's usually a 1:1 match of the employee's contribution, up to anywhere from 2-8% of the employee's total salary, maximum). For many companies, there are also bonuses to figure out as well. To top all of that off, companies have to pay a Workman's Compensation (long-term disability) insurance premium for each employee, which varies from state to state, and can even vary between industries (for instance, office workers are probably cheaper to insure w/ the state's WC board than ironworkers would be).

It would be almost to give a set percentage that would strictly apply across all companies, but usually it comes to around 30% above salary (or hourly rate) as a rough estimate.

Re:Saving $19.2M over the first eight years...how? (4, Informative)

M. Baranczak (726671) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042880)

Salaries aren't the only cost. Don't forget health insurance and pension plan. Plus the cost of maintaining the actual booths. Plus the armored trucks that have to carry a few tons of quarters every day.

Re:Saving $19.2M over the first eight years...how? (3, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042952)

The cost of an employee is usually around double that employee's salary (benefits, substitute cover when they are off, equipment, and so on). They're also going to be saving a lot if they're not handling cash anymore.

Re:Saving $19.2M over the first eight years...how? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35042982)

Here in NJ an experienced toll collect can make upwards of $30/hr, so $62400 a year before taxes, plus health insurance, the employer SS tax, etc would probably push them over $100k a year in costs. That's also why they are phasing out toll collectors here too.

When will they and the other us systems go ezpass? (4, Interesting)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042804)

When will they and all the other us systems link up with ez-pass?

Re:When will they and the other us systems go ezpa (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35042956)

This will happen once the DHS decides they need to track you everywhere you go and makes the EZ pass mandatory. But don't worry, it will be 'free', paid for by productive Americans i.e. taxpayers.

Re:When will they and the other us systems go ezpa (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35043134)

But don't worry, it will be 'free', paid for by productive Americans i.e. taxpayers.

Free? Where's the profit in that? In Germany we recently had an increase from 8€ to 29€ (plus another 8-16€ for pictures that can only be used for IDs) for our ID card, which is mandatory to have by law. Just imagine the benefits to businesses with ties to corrupt politicians if they can force citizens to pay them as much as they want by law!

Um....No. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35042806)

u need people in those toll booths to greet people.'

No, you don't.

Isn't that public infrastructure? (1)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042812)

This isn't a political rant, but I'd have thought the landmark bridges where owned by the state? Or is it common for the state to have road/bridge tolls in the US, to pay for upkeep?

Re:Isn't that public infrastructure? (1)

penguinchris (1020961) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042858)

Try driving to/from NYC - the bridge tolls are ridiculous. There's at least one route without a toll, but all the most commonly-used bridges have tolls as high as $8 (one way). Gold Gate Bridge is similar, not sure what the price on that one is right now though.

Re:Isn't that public infrastructure? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35042986)

Try as high as $13 dollars for the Verrazano Bridge.

Re:Isn't that public infrastructure? (1)

RoFLKOPTr (1294290) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043118)

Try driving to/from NYC - the bridge tolls are ridiculous. There's at least one route without a toll, but all the most commonly-used bridges have tolls as high as $8 (one way). Gold Gate Bridge is similar, not sure what the price on that one is right now though.

The Golden Gate is $6 right now, $5 if you pay with FasTrak. The Bay Bridge is $6 during rush hour, $5 on the weekends, and $4 on off-peak. All the other bridges in the Bay Area are $5. Cars with those douchey "Clean Air Vehicle" decals are $2.50 everywhere.

Anyway, my point is it costs me $100 to get to work every month, and some people even have to cross TWO bridges to get to San Francisco in less than 2 hours.

Re:Isn't that public infrastructure? (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042862)

Here in Dallas they're just money machines. Politicians see the need for new roads (especially in fast-growing Texas) and use state funds to pay for the highways, and then lease the toll-road rights (a 99 year lease!!) to private companies for a lump sum, which they can then use for other purposes. The NTTA toll company has been so successful with this State-Backed venture that they were lobbying for a multi-billion dollar 10 lane highway between Dallas and Mexico through west Texas under the same agreement framework. If you look at this map [dot.gov] and the big fat line between San Antonio and Dallas, you can see why that appears to be such a lucrative idea. I-35 is way overcrowded 24/7, especially with freight truck traffic.

Re:Isn't that public infrastructure? (1)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042912)

Well, I guess as long as the contract inescapably says that the road goes back to the state if the company fails to manage it properly or lets it fall into disrepair, it could work.

Re:Isn't that public infrastructure? (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042920)

It was commonplace for tolls to be required to pay for the bridge/road system under the guise that the tolls would be removed after the bonds were paid. Unfortunately, as with any tax, the government never has any intention of making them temporary and does whatever it can to justify the influx of dollars they have done nothing to prepare for a time without.

I avoid toll roads, like the god awful ones in Chicago, like the plague. In fact when I drive from Minnesota to any states east of here, I drive down to I-80 in Iowa and across rather than go through Chicago. Sure it adds 50 miles but I end up saving time, gas (no traffic), and the aggravation of seeing tolls continue to allow for awful roads.

Re:Isn't that public infrastructure? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043268)

Most bridges don't have tolls, mainly very large bridges. Toll roads are rare, especially in the west, where they are mainly developed as a way to deal with congestion, if they exist at all.

Re:Isn't that public infrastructure? (1)

HertzaHaeon (1164143) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043292)

If it works like I think, I'd say it's a good thing. The Øresund Bridge between Sweden and Denmark [wikipedia.org] is entirely user financed, despite being built by the respective governments. It seems fairer to let actual users pay for infrastructure like this than to take it from taxes that can be better spent on other things that can't pay for themselves so easily.

That quote from Mr. Hynes sounds like... (1)

lcba (175394) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042820)

Like taken from one of Ayn Rand's book (you know the bad guys that represent all the same BS), if there are systems that would make it easier, faster and cheaper, why the hell would you ever want people there? I you don't like that, you should be filing a hurt feelings report (http://www.eatliver.com/i.php?n=2026)

Tourists vs residents (5, Interesting)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043012)

It's a question of tourists versus residents, one of the long-standing San Francisco tug-of-wars that's only been escalating of late since the city's budget fell apart. San Francisco is very much a place of "soak the tourists for all they're worth". A one-way cable-car ride is $5. (Residents can get a monthly transit pass that lets them ride at no additional cost.) In Golden Gate Park, they just fenced in the Conservatory of Flowers last year so they could start charging money to people without a driver's license which says they live in the city... i.e. soak the tourists. There's complaints that the planned streetcar/subway expansion for the T-Third light rail line is all for the tourists.

Take a look at Locans and Tourists #3: San Francisco [flickr.com], a map of geotagged photos of San Francisco based on a 'tourist' vs 'resident' heuristic (tourists take photos all at once; residents take them over a period of months). San Francisco is a divided city.

Eliminate tolls (1, Interesting)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042834)

There is really no reason to have all the additional expense of toll roads.

Just get rid of tolls completely. (4, Interesting)

Zaphod-AVA (471116) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042848)

Tolls waste a lot of time and money in an attempt to spread the cost of the road to the people that 'use' it, but this doesn't work. Everyone benefits from the road system. Even if you don't own a car, the goods and services you use rely on them. Adding tolls just increases the cost of those goods and services, so the entire toll industry is a waste of time. Just tax people evenly for the roads we all rely on and skip the wasteful toll booths and electronics.

Re:Just get rid of tolls completely. (0)

Bazman (4849) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042930)

Tax people evenly or tax usage evenly? How do you tax usage evenly? Legally-enforced odometers? Or tax fuel? That also encourages fuel economy.

Of course there will be riots if the price of gas in the US reaches anything like half the price of petrol in the UK....

Re:Just get rid of tolls completely. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35043022)

They tax fuel in many states, ostensibly for this reason. It's not exactly even because if I own a motorcycle that gets 60MPG I am not paying the same per mile traveled. However, I am arguably doing less damage to the road as well.

Re:Just get rid of tolls completely. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35042990)

You misunderstand the reason for toll booths on the golden gate bridge. It's about reducing demand.

By having a toll on the bridge, a certain percentage of the population is going to decide that it's not worth it to cross the bridge, and will plan their trip using an alternate route. This reduces the number of cars crossing and reduces congestion. By implementing a toll, you help insure that there is at least one non-congested (or relatively quick) path by car into the city, so that those who need to get there in a hurry can. If you need to get into the city 15 to 20 minutes faster, the toll is worth it.

With the toll, the bridge is useful to some people (or all people some of the time). Without the toll, the bridge becomes just as congested as any other road, because people choosing between the bridge and the alternative will favor the bridge until congestion makes them indifferent between the two.

Re:Just get rid of tolls completely. (5, Informative)

RoFLKOPTr (1294290) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043212)

You misunderstand the reason for toll booths on the golden gate bridge. It's about reducing demand.

By having a toll on the bridge, a certain percentage of the population is going to decide that it's not worth it to cross the bridge, and will plan their trip using an alternate route. This reduces the number of cars crossing and reduces congestion. By implementing a toll, you help insure that there is at least one non-congested (or relatively quick) path by car into the city, so that those who need to get there in a hurry can. If you need to get into the city 15 to 20 minutes faster, the toll is worth it.

With the toll, the bridge is useful to some people (or all people some of the time). Without the toll, the bridge becomes just as congested as any other road, because people choosing between the bridge and the alternative will favor the bridge until congestion makes them indifferent between the two.

You misunderstand the reason for toll booths on the Golden Gate Bridge. It's about revenue.

There ARE no alternate toll-free paths into San Francisco unless you want to add nearly three hours to your drive. They also strategically planned the toll booths so that most people cannot avoid paying a toll by picking and choosing different paths to take and running the toll-free side of a bridge in the morning and the toll-free side of another bridge on their way home. You must not be from the Bay Area, so I'll forgive you, but there simply is no feasible way to bypass the Golden Gate Bridge to get into the city.

Re:Just get rid of tolls completely. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35043028)

I don't follow your logic. If shipped goods are more expensive, then people will buy more durable light bulbs and buy food from closer farms, which overall require less transportation and reduce road traffic.

Re:Just get rid of tolls completely. (4, Insightful)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043048)

Everyone benefits from the road system.

 
And extending the same idea, everyone benefits from the existence of the Internet, therefore people who don't have access to it should also pay a share of your ISP bill, right? Not everyone benefits from the road system equally. People who drive more benefit more personally and also cause more damage to the roads and they should pay more for the maintenance. The gas tax that we have now is one way to do it but its imperfect. The most fair way to finance roads is to pay by the mile traveled with the weight of the vehicle factored in, which is pretty much what the tolls do. The only problem with tolls is the practicality, the delays they cause etc but it seems like technology can fix that.

Re:Just get rid of tolls completely. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35043058)

Sorry, your argument that this doesn't work to spread the cost of the road to the people that "use" it is just flat out wrong. Even if you never drive over the bridge yourself you still pay the cost of the toll incorporated in the fee that you pay to the UPS driver for your package, supermarket for your food delivered over the bridge by truck, etc.

You Dont Understand Politics & The Human Condi (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35043178)

No what would happen if your suggestion was honestly considered by politicians is this. They would eliminate toll roads, and add a new tax on all of the citizen incomes to cover the roads than they are now. However, with even more money available than before, the roads would be maintained even less than they are now for some odd reason. And, over time the money would get mismanaged and re-appropriated to their own private projects, completely unrelated to the road system, and funnel that money to their best buddies for favors, positions, perks, etc. Then, they would decry that the roads have no funding and would reinstate toll roads to solve it but in the process fail to remove the road tax itself. As a result, you now get double taxed for more poorly maintained roads, and the politicians in the meantime have three or four homes in several vacation states and ownership in various golf courses, oil companies and sports teams. Congratulations on solving the problem buddy.

tolls moderate use of saturated roads (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35043312)

Tolls waste a lot of time and money in an attempt to spread the cost of the road to the people that 'use' it, but this doesn't work. Everyone benefits from the road system. Even if you don't own a car, the goods and services you use rely on them. Adding tolls just increases the cost of those goods and services, so the entire toll industry is a waste of time. Just tax people evenly for the roads we all rely on and skip the wasteful toll booths and electronics.

Quite the opposite. After a certain point roads start being congested because, while it takes time in traffic to move, the road is "free" and so people use it. There's been a growing voice in Toronto, Canada saying that tolls should be introduced: we have some of the worst traffic jams (worse than LA), and stretches of Highway 401 get over 500,000 cars an hour (the busiest in the world).

The cost of all the delays of traffic, and the increased commute time for people, is coasting the economy several billion dollars in productivity. And given that Toronto is the largest economic area in Canada, it probably has some consequences nation-wide.

So tolls are probably are unnecessary on most roads, but after a certain point you need them to moderate road use to below saturation levels.

The same is true of parking: check out the book "The High Cost of Free Parking" on numerous examples of how introducing paid parking improved the situation for drivers (available spots), pedestrians (less pollution from people circling the block), and local businesses (more turn over of spots allow more customers to get in and out).

Wait a minute (1)

scosco62 (864264) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042890)

A toll booth attendant who actually greets people? C'mon........maybe I've been on the East Coast too long......they wouldn't make eye contact if you rolled through the booth in an Abrams tank....

Re:Wait a minute (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35043050)

To be fair, I'm a pretty friendly guy but if I were a toll booth operator and you rolled through in an Abrams tank, I wouldn't make eye contact either.

Re:Wait a minute (1)

RoFLKOPTr (1294290) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043216)

They wouldn't make eye contact if you rolled through the booth in an Abrams tank....

Shit, I wouldn't either. Who would want to risk looking at a crazy person in a tank the wrong way?

Toll Attendant Anecdote (1)

penguinchris (1020961) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042900)

I've driven from NY to CA and back a few times. The last time, driving to NY, I did it in 2.5 days. I wasn't driving while tired - I always took breaks at the first sign of drowsiness - but as you can imagine I wasn't in the friendliest and peppiest state. In Indiana, I waited in a large line for the cash toll booths - it was something like a 50 cent toll - how hard can it be?

I get up to the booth, and the middle-aged lady notices my California license plate and starts chatting me up. "Oh, you're from California? Where are you going?" "Really! What are you studying?" etc., all while I'm holding my hand out with the toll ready, and with a grimace on my face as I gave my curt responses. Meanwhile cars are piling up behind me.

In other words: you do not "need people in those toll booths to greet people"!

Switzerland has a nice system (4, Informative)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042934)

You buy a sticker to put on the inside of your windshield. It costs ~32€ and is good for a year. With that, you can drive anywhere, without any further tolls. Switzerland has butt-loads of tunnels and bridges that they have to maintain, and their autobahns are some of the best I have ever driven on. They are probably cleaner than most surgical operating room in the world.

In Italy, they have some kind of electronic subscription sticker system that lets you get through the toll booths fast. Or you can just shove in your EC bank card or credit card at unmanned booths. They do have folks at a few toll booths. On my last trip there, I saw that a lot of tourists would hold up maps, and ask the toll collector for advice. So maybe tossing the human element out is not such a great idea.

In Germany there are no tolls, and on a lot of the autobahns, no speed limit. Their autobahn motto is: "Drive fast, die young, leave a beautiful, mangled corpse."

Re:Switzerland has a nice system (1)

jfengel (409917) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043010)

Purely technical question: what do you do with the expired sticker?

A sticker that goes on the license plate can be replaced with a new sticker; you just put the new one on top. But a sticker that goes on the inside of a windshield won't be seen.

I suppose you have to scrape the old one off. Do they make that easy? The ones my garage uses to remind me of my next oil change just peel off, though I suspect they may want ones you have to destroy to remove (to prevent theft).

Re:Switzerland has a nice system (0)

toetagger (642315) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043046)

THIS!

I hate this system! I drove to Switzerland for a weekend trip in December, and had to pay for the whole year sticker. Now, 2 years later, I still have the sticker, b/c its a pain to take it off where they put it - On the insight of your windshield, maybe 25 cm^2, in bright yellow!

Re:Switzerland has a nice system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35043162)

Still trying to decide who is more stupid and annoying, the "THIS^" people, or the "FTFY" people. In either case, I'm not sure the death penalty is too extreme.

Re:Switzerland has a nice system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35043336)

I always mod "THIS" people as troll or flamebait.

FTFY are sometimes funny and/or insightful.

Re:Switzerland has a nice system (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043280)

I still have the sticker, b/c its a pain to take it off where they put it

I bought the sticker before I drove through Switzerland, which I would recommend to anyone planning on driving to or through Switzerland. There was a diagram on the sticker of three places that it could be placed on the windshield. So I chose a convenient place to put paste it, and that was that. It peals of easily, but self destructs in the process, so that you cannot "loan" the sticker to friends. Of course, with enough work, you might be able to do it, but is it really worth 32€? That's chump change for me.

Re:Switzerland has a nice system (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043188)

The ones my garage uses to remind me of my next oil change just peel off, though I suspect they may want ones you have to destroy to remove (to prevent theft).

It's easy to peel of, but "self-destructs" in the process, so you can't peel it off, and put it in another car. Of course, the folks at Wired and Make probably know a process to do this. Most likely involving some nasty chemical solvents.

He wants to be greeted on the bridge? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35042950)

You need people in those toll booths to greet people

And you need people waving red flags in front of the cars, too.

Out of state plates & non-US plates. (4, Insightful)

CrAlt (3208) | more than 3 years ago | (#35042976)

And how about all the people who don't update their registration when they move? Rental cars?

And what do you do if the bill isn't paid? Suspend the registration? Cali can't do that to out of state plates or plates from Canada/Mexico.

I wonder if the added bureaucracy and paperwork for collections is going to nullify the gains they make by not collecting at the bridge.

Re:Out of state plates & non-US plates. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35043056)

When on vacation in Vancouver, they have this system; however the cameras shoot license plates from the front. In my province the license plates are on the back only. Thus, we had full access to toll bridges without cost. In practice the small percentage of people who can get through without paying is not worth going after: it would cost more money to try to get the $5 toll than it is worth. However due to the 99.9% of other cars who can / do pay easily, it is still worth it.

Re:Out of state plates & non-US plates. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35043230)

You must not be from a state that has any form of ez-pass type system. All those issues have been solved 10+ years ago.

California should take their head out of their butt and join EZ-Pass instead of making their own incompatible stuff. Currently you can drive on any toll road in Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, Virginia, and probably a few other states that I've forgotten all using the same account and same transponder.

Re:Out of state plates & non-US plates. (1)

HertzaHaeon (1164143) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043306)

What happens when you write a parking ticket for cars with those plates? I suggest something similar happens here. It's a system that works fairly well in other parts of the world, like London and Stockholm. There's no reason it can't work in the US as well.

Allegedly on its way in NYC area (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35043024)

The MTA is removing the barrier gates at E-Z Pass lanes on the Henry Hudson Bridge this month, and there was some chatter in the NY papers about that bridge going to totally electronic toll collection sometime in the next 2-3 years.

Personally, I think the union will fight it tooth and nail, and they'll bring up the Homeland Security angle of having human eyes at toll booths to catch bad actors.

Re:Allegedly on its way in NYC area (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35043250)

...the union will fight it tooth and nail, and they'll bring up the Homeland Security angle of having human eyes at toll booths to catch bad actors.

Come on, mods! Do your jobs! This is comedy gold!

Re:Allegedly on its way in NYC area (1)

rich3rd (559032) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043254)

Like I really want the security of my city depending on someone who's been huffing exhaust fumes and performing a mundane, repetitive task all day. Also, having humans touch currency that is then going to be shuffled in with other currency and redistributed to countless other humans passing over the bridge seems to me an ideal vector for any number of terrorist chemical or biological attacks. Other than that, the Homeland Security angle sounds like a great argument.

Borrowed License Plates (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35043042)

So what happens when someone decides to borrow other peoples plates? The problem I see with this is a transponder you choose to put in your car, otherwise you go through the toll booths and pay your money. Either way it's hard to get incorrectly charged. Now borrow someone else's car or just their plates and drive back and forth across the bridge repeatedly. If I recall correctly CA only requires a rear plate, but most the neighboring states require front and back, so you could get away with borrowing someones plate for the duration of your vacation, then return their plate. At the end of the month they get the bill when they were never even in the state of CA. And when they fight the charges the photographed vehicle is one they've never owned. Therefore this should be unconstitutional because you can't prove the owner of the vehicle actually drove across the bridge. It's too easy to spoof.

Actually, it might be easier! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35043068)

Take a tip from that transporter guy. Doesn't his car flip license plates or some nonsense at a press of a button?
Camera snaps the picture.... and the bill is mailed to.... no one! :D You save money AND time.

I love when movies actually teach us something.

Need to pay for the mo's deviant lifestyle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35043108)

I mean sex changes for mentally ill people (mo's) aren't free. I've drove through SF/G. Gate a few times and its nothing special... other than a deviant utopia.

Saving all the money means more union bosses get a raise, more mo's get chop-a-dick-offa-me's... why would you NOT want to drive over that bridge 50-60 times a day??

What bullshit (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043116)

No, I don't need a human face or to be greeted by somebody who's been sitting in a cramped booth and mechanically greeting people for months. Ew.

It's a frickin' bridge, not a hotel.

The unknown Secret about Electronic Tolls... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35043138)

It costs more to collect the money then it does to hire employees to collect the fares.

Dallas Texas toll system - awesome (2)

netsavior (627338) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043150)

We have boothless tolling now, and here are the directions to get anywhere: First, find the shortest route to the tollway, then go wherever you want. It is amazing, cut my commute from 1.5 hours to 24 minutes. Speaking as an entitled middle class asshole, I 3 tollways.

Higher tolls to come...... (0)

murph (16036) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043194)

Once the tolls are automated, the tolls can be increased more frequently and with less outrage from the motorists. Of course the politicians like the idea. They'll sell the idea on convenience, and then soak people later.

New bridges, new tech (1)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043196)

The newest bridge here in Vancouver, the Golden Ears Bridge [translink.ca], uses electronic tolling. It's the first toll bridge in these parts since tolls were abolished on other bridges in the 1960s. I don't use it enough to justify a transponder. Translink send me a bill for a few dollars every 3 months. Since it goes from nowhere to nowhere, nobody uses it much at all: it's almost always deserted. It's a handy landmark for the Pitt Meadows Airport [pittmeadowsairport.com], though the actual reporting point when approaching from the east is Hammond Mill, on the river right by Port Hammond [google.com].

The new Port Mann Bridge [pmh1project.com] will use the same setup. Unlike Golden Ears, it is a major part of the road network. It only took them 40 years of gridlock to decide it needed upgrading.

I don't mind electronic tolling, actually. It saves having to fumble for change. My company's head office is in Dallas, not far from the George Bush Turnpike [ntta.org]. Last time I got a rental car with a transponder, but the system didn't seem to recognize it.

...laura

Not front page worthy - Sorry Guys (1)

nefus (952656) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043198)

Is local news something that Slashdot wants to seriously put on it's front page? It's sort of like saying the WW2 history museum in New Orleans is going to repaint the building from one shade of gray to a different one. It's just not front page news and a low point for this site.

Visitors (1)

CODiNE (27417) | more than 3 years ago | (#35043200)

That's all good as long as they make it visitor friendly. I hate being relegated to the non-FasTrack ghetto while passing through Orange County California.

I think the situation is different with a national landmark unless they want a bunch of rental car companies getting bills in the mail everyday.

Overall I dislike FasTrack and the ability of a private company to give out traffic fines.

Don't stop with the 34 layoffs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35043214)

If it's such a good idea of the Golden Gate Bridge board of directors by saving so many millions of dollars, they left out what they can contribute to the good of the Golden Gate Bridge. They can lay off themselves as well, and hire 1 single director, keep the entire maintenance crews, rehire the laid off toll takers as maintenance personnel. These people are heartless shits, saving money on the backs of the workers and commuters only to support a heavily subsidized and totally failing ferry system. This is America folks.

Where's all the money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35043314)

34 jobs over 8 years at around 20k/year each is ~5.5M, do maintenance and power costs really make up the other ~14M? Where does the rest of the money from the 19.2M go?

Tool booths are antiquated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35043332)

Near Toronto, we use an all electronic toll system for the "407" highway. It has no toll booths but requires a transponder or the system photographs the plate and sends you a bill. Of course if they have to do the photo thing, then they charge you extra so it can be argued that you are forcing people to either pay extra for a transponder or extra for a photo toll, which of course is a bad thing. But like any big steel bridge over salt water, it needs alot of maintenance in order to keep it from rusting into a heap. If they can save money by implimenting this system its probably better in the long run. The cheaper the overall bill, the lower the taxes for the guy driving over the bridge (and hypothetically lower tolls as well).

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