By Annie Tran:
Graphic by Andrew Lee:
The San Francisco Transportation Authority (SFTA) is currently considering a proposal that will charge drivers $3 for entry into the city between 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and another $3 to leave the city between 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. The revenue from these tolls would be spent on the city’s infrastructure and daily maintenance.
If the proposal was approved by SFTA, the construction and actual implementation will start in 2015 and a virtual toll plaza would be placed on the border between San Mateo County and the city itself. In virtual tolls, the money is collected electronically through cameras that keep track of drivers and FasTrak, which is an electronic toll collection system that allows drivers to pay without stopping at toll booths. This use of technology would be the first “congestion pricing” system in the United States.
The system will most likely start out as a pilot program, which will only last up to 12 months. After this time period, the toll may become permanent if it is successful. According to a statement given by SFTA, the pilot program will take place either at the southern border or the northeast part of the city.
San Francisco will have to spend $60 million to $100 million to implement this system. This is because the city will have to adjust the transition system to make local transit improvements.
Some people expressed opposition to the toll proposal. “I don’t believe that the toll is the right way to create revenue for the city,” video production teacher Edward Corpuz said. “I’m sure there are other creative and more lucrative alternatives to this. Plus, if San Francisco can do this, it means that any other Bay Area city can do this, which would obviously not have a positive effect on our area.” Corpuz also believes that the toll will ultimately backfire on the city because it will discourage tourists traveling to and from the Bay Area.
Junior Madison Sabbag, a former resident of San Francisco, holds a different view. “Of course there are always better alternatives but I think this is good for San Francisco right now,” Sabbag said. “Three dollars isn’t really that much to ask of people, especially since most of the Bay Area residents are pretty wealthy. And I’m sure that tourists aren’t going to be driven away because of a $3 toll, since there are other alternatives for getting in and out of the city, like the CalTrain.” However, Sabbag does believe that there should be an option for San Franciscans to opt out of paying the toll.
There would be some exceptions to this toll, such as taxis and emergency vehicles. Other exceptions, including low-income residents who will have trouble paying the toll and drivers who cross the toll bridge numerous times during the day, may be eligible for a small discount.
In addition, there are a few residential streets that cross the border, but the city does not plan to charge any tolls there. According to a statement released by a deputy director of SFTA Tilly Chang, the tolls will reduce traffic at the city’s southern border and decrease the amount of traffic by 20 percent during commute times. “That type of logic doesn’t make sense,” Corpuz said. “It won’t alleviate traffic at all and will probably just end up clogging the local streets with people who are trying to avoid paying the toll.”
Not only will the proposal need to be decided by the authority’s board, the San Francisco supervisors will also need to endorse the finished plan. In addition, the state will also have to pass some sort of legislation on it, which means that the toll may become an issue for the voters later on.
According to English teacher Justin Brown, who is a San Francisco resident, a fair amount of voters will most likely think about how the toll affects themselves rather than how it would affect the city. “This is going to create hardships for people. It’s hard to recommend it enthusiastically when it will inconvenience so many, myself included,” he said. “However if this issue is portrayed in a light where people can see the overall picture and if the proposal does actually generate jobs, then I think it would go over positively with citizens.”