Don’t get mad about bridge tolls

With only 11 percent of SF State students living on campus, it’s safe to say that some of the remaining 89 percent commute across the Golden Gate Bridge and would be affected by the raising of the toll.

An increase of $1 has been approved for crossing the famous bridge this year, with additional increases eventually reaching $8 in 2018. The initial reaction has been negative because it’ll be an extra burden on commuters’ budgets; but is it really such a terrible thing?

Across the nation, bridge tolls range from $1 to more than $10 for one way. San Francisco is a huge city and the Golden Gate Bridge is the most iconic of all US bridges. The raising of the toll for a bridge, that is not only used by commuters but also attracts thousands of visitors from around the world, to only $8 by 2018 is something the city should embrace.

Let’s look at a city as famous as San Francisco: New York City. New York City’s bridges make our toll — a mere $5 with FasTrak and $6 by license plate billing — look like mincemeat. The Bayonne Bridge from NYC’s Staten Island to New Jersey and the George Washington Bridge from Manhattan to NJ are $13 during peak time for cars and $9 during off-peak time for one way. Bridges in Maryland, such as the Millard E. Tydings Memorial Bridge and Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge, already cost $8 one way.

It’s actually surprising that our bridge toll has not reached double digits yet.

But why raise the toll? According to SFGate, it’s the first hike in five years and would raise $123 million during the next five. Sadly, they’re not fundraising this money to bring reduced student passes for Muni or BART.

According to CBS, there’s a $142 million shortfall in the bridge’s budget happening in the next five years. This was supposed to cover projects like seismic retrofitting, rehabilitation of the bridge’s south tower that has a foundation underwater and of the floor beams under the roadway. While nobody likes paying an extra dollar, most people would choose paying that dollar than having a floor board collapse during their drive across the bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge District spokeswoman Mary Currie also told CBS that electronic billing makes it possible to raise the toll in slower increments than dollars. The district has the ability to raise it 25 cents, 50 cents or whatever they deem most appropriate. This is good news since it means we won’t have to see dollar increases every year, instead it’s just specific amounts fitted for both the district’s budget and our own.

Plus, if you’re a frequent driver in the bridge area you’ve probably noticed that the turn off, Doyle Drive, has been under construction for years now. It’s slated to finally be finished in 2016. Golden Gate Bridge General Manager and CEO Denis Mulligan wrote an opinion piece in the Marin Independent Journal explaining that $75 million is due at the end of construction, making fundraising for that upcoming bill crucial.

Looking at the bigger picture, the raising of $2 during the course of four years is far from the end of the world. Using the Golden Gate Bridge will still be cheaper than the SF to Larkspur Ferry and if you’re really that mad about a whole dollar, you should know that bikes are free to cross.

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