September 18, 2012

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Update on Golden Gate Bridge All Electronic Tolling

Friday, Sept. 21 GGBHTD Board to Amend Master Ordinance Policies for All Electronic Tolling

In January 2011, the Board of Directors (Board) of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District (GGBHTD) authorized staff to begin the process for converting toll collection at the Golden Gate Bridge to an All Electronic Tolling system. Since then, several Board policies have been modified to accommodate the operational requirements of the new system. The action recommended to be taken by the Finance Committee and the full Board on Friday, September 21 is to formally authorize the inclusion of these policy modifications into the GGBHTD’s Master Ordinance. This action is essentially a formality.

All Electronic Tolling Conversion Schedule
The schedule is subject to change and is on track as of today!

December 2012: Functionality Testing

  1. Toll collectors will continue to staff the FasTrak/Cash toll lanes and cash will still be accepted.
  2. The new technologies associated with the all electronic tolling system will be tested/validated.
  3. As the all electronic tolling system will be “turned on” in all toll lanes, customers will have the opportunity to learn about and also start to use the All Electronic Tolling payment options: FasTrak® and Pay-By-Plate choices referred to as License Plate Accounts and One-Time Payments.
  4. Customers who choose not to use FasTrak or Pay-By-Plate, and do not pay with cash will receive a Toll Invoice. The Toll Invoice will direct them to take action to participate in the new toll payment options and to pay the toll invoice.

February 2013: Full Conversion to All Electronic Tolling

Toll collectors will no longer staff the tollbooths and cash will no longer be collected at the toll plaza. Instead, customers will have their choice of using FasTrak or the new Pay-By-Plate choices (License Plate Account or One-Time Payment.) Customers will still be able to pay their toll using cash in person at the Bay Area FasTrak Customer Service Center in San Francisco or at a number of new cash payment locations established throughout the Bay Area.

Use FasTrak: FasTrak is the preferred toll payment method for Bay Area drivers who are currently crossing any of the Bay Area toll bridges as it is accepted on all Bay Area toll bridges and Express Lanes and on toll roads in southern CA. If a motorist crosses a Bay Area toll bridge more than 10 times in a year, they should be thinking about setting up a FasTrak Account. It is easy (online, by phone, in person) and requires maintaining a small prepaid balance. Using FasTrak is the only way to receive the discounted toll rates offered at the Golden Gate Bridge.

Use Pay-By-Plate choices:

  1. Set up a License Plate Account: License Plate Accounts are best suited for Golden Gate Bridge drivers who don’t want to maintain a prepaid balance as is required with a FasTrak Account, don't mind paying the non-discounted toll rates (e.g. toll is $6 is the non-discounted toll rate for two-axle vehicles versus the discounted FasTrak toll rate of $5) and/or they don't want a FasTrak toll tag. License Plate Accounts do not require a pre-paid balance; instead they offer customers a pay-as-you-go option. License Plate Accounts can be set up using a credit card or cash.
  2. Make a One-Time Payment: One-Time Payments are best suited for drivers who rarely cross the Golden Gate Bridge and for visitors from out of the area. A One-Time Payment can be made before or after you cross the Golden Gate Bridge. Payments can be made by credit card or cash.

Summary of Modifications to Board Policies for All Electronic Tolling

POLICY = Toll Rates for All Electronic Tolling

There is no change in the toll rates; the CASH toll rates will become the Pay-by-Plate toll rates.

Number of Axles
Cash Toll Rates become
Pay-By-Plate Toll Rate
FasTrak Toll Rate
Remains Discounted Toll Rate
Carpool and Qualifying Disabled Persons Toll Rate remains as it is today
3-7 axles
$6 per axle rate
$5 per axle rate
8-axles +
$42 flat rate
$35 flat toll rate

POLICY = Cash Toll Payment will be Replaced by “Pay-By-Plate” Toll Payment Choices

With all electronic tolling, there will be two toll payment options at the Golden Gate Bridge:
(1) FasTrak and (2) Pay-By-Plate. FasTrak remains as it is today. Pay-By-Plate toll payment features two unique choices pay the Golden Gate Bridge toll when CASH is no longer accepted.

The Pay-By-Plate choices involving taking action to pay your Golden Gate Bridge toll to avoid Toll Invoices and ultimately toll violations:
License Plate Account: Motorists may set up a License Plate Account to automatically deduct the toll from their License Plate Account after they cross the Bridge (which is different than FasTrak which requires that a pre-paid toll balance is maintained)
One-Time Payment: Must be made up to 30 days before crossing the through the Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza or up to two days after crossing through the Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza.

Toll Invoices: If a customer takes no action to pay the toll (does not open a FasTrak account, does not open a License Plate Account, and does not make a One-Time Payment), then a Toll Invoice will be mailed to the address of the registered owner of the vehicle on file with the DMV. The first Toll Invoice is mailed 3 days after passing through the toll plaza. Toll Invoice payment will be due 21 days from the date of mailing.

Toll Violations: The change in the toll violation process at the Golden Gate Bridge is that the mailing of a Toll Violation notice will not occur until after the motorist has been sent a Toll Invoice and that Invoice remains unpaid after the 21 day payment period. Unpaid Toll Invoices escalate to Toll Violations if they are not paid in full by the due date.

Cash Payment Locations: A number of cash payment locations will be established throughout the Bay Area prior to the conversion to All Electronic Tolling. At a cash payment location, customers can make a One-Time Payment, replenish a License Plate Account, or pay a Toll Invoice without incurring service fees. FasTrak Account holders may also use the cash payment locations to maintain the required pre-paid balance but these transactions will be subject to a $1.95 per transaction service fee. Toll violations may also be paid via a cash payment location with a $2.95 service fee. To avoid the service fees, customers may use alternative methods of payment, such as paying via phone, using the website, or paying in person at the FasTrak Regional Customer Service Center in San Francisco.

POLICY = Carpool/Clean Air Vehicles will use a Dedicated Toll Lane

Qualifying carpools and vehicles bearing the WHITE DMV clean air decals will continue to use FasTrak to pay the discount toll during the applicable carpool hours. With all electronic tolling, these vehicles will receive the carpool toll rate by using a dedicated lane.

Benefits of Converting to All Electronic Tolling

  1. Proven Success: Across the USA and around the world, the tolling industry is transitioning to all electronic tolling. Examples in the USA include: SR 520 Bridge and Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington; Florida’s Turnpike; Miami-Dade Expressway; and North Texas Tollway Authority.
  2. Customer Convenience: It’s easier for Bay Area drivers and visitors to pay their tolls, since they no longer have to fumble for cash, no longer have to stop at the toll plaza, and can just “keep moving.”
  3. Choices: Paying tolls on the Golden Gate Bridge is even easier. The two toll payment options (FasTrak and Pay-By-Plate) will offer increased customer flexibility along with a myriad of ways to pay a toll using cash, check, or credit card.
  4. Improve Southbound Congestion: Golden Gate Bridge tolls are collected only in the southbound direction (into San Francisco). Once the transition to all electronic tolling is made, congestion through the toll plaza on weekday evenings, along with weekends and holidays, is projected to improve as drivers no longer have to stop at the toll plaza.
  5. Cost Savings: Conversion to all electronic tolling is currently projected to save about $19 million over an eight-year period.

How Will All Electronic Tolling Work?

Antennas, mounted overhead on the toll plaza canopy, detect FasTrak toll tags as a vehicle enters the toll plaza. The antenna reads a signal from the toll tag (when mounted properly inside the vehicle) which in turn tells the tolling system that the vehicle has a FasTrak account.

When no FasTrak toll tag is detected, for the Pay-By-Plate toll payment options, digital cameras capture images of license plates as vehicles pass through the toll plaza. That license plate number is then associated with a customer’s License Plate Account or One-Time Payment. If, after 3 days, a license plate is not associated with a License Plate Account or One-Time Payment, that license number will be sent to the DMV to be identified so a Toll Invoice can be mailed to the address of registered owner on file with the DMV. Toll Invoices allow a customer 21 days to pay the toll(s) due during the invoice period.

All Golden Gate Bridge toll transactions will be processed and all tolls will be assessed at the Bay Area FasTrak Customer Service Center, 475 The Embarcadero, San Francisco.

Update on Transitioning of Toll Collectors

When the decision was made in January 2011 to convert to All Electronic Tolling, the GGBHTD had 32 full time Toll Collectors.

As of September 18:

9 have retired or departed the position for various reasons
3 transitioned to other positions within the GGBHTD
12 total have transitioned out of the toll lanes

The GGBHTD is continuing to work with the remaining 20 full time Toll Collectors to identify other positions within the GGBHTD that come open that the Toll Collectors may be qualified for.

Most recent, 7 have shown interest in the GGBHTD’s current Bus Operator recruitment. The GGBHTD continues to work with the union to develop the separation package to provide a soft landing if the Toll Collectors are not able to be transitioned into another position here at the GGBHTD.

With the 12 toll collectors that have departed the GGBHTD, 20 temporary on-call collectors have been hired to back fill the shifts requiring coverage.

Examples of Tasks Underway to Accommodate All Electronic Tolling

The following are some of the examples of the various tasks being undertaken or completed as preparation for the conversion to All Electronic Tolling:

  1. Testing of the new hardware systems and upgrades installed in the toll lanes is underway now.
  2. Toll Plaza system software development is well underway with the testing of new reports, database changes, and various functionalities required for the system to operate accurately.
  3. The design, fabrication of the new customer signage program is well underway. New lane indicator lights all ready installed to show if a toll lane is open or closed, with more to come.
  4. Preparations at the Regional FasTrak Customer Service Center are well underway and include testing file exchanges and the processing of the new Pay-By-Plate transactions.

Additional Stats on All Electronic Tolling

20 million southbound vehicles annually pay the Golden Gate Bridge toll
70% (14 million) of the 20 million use FasTrak today
30% (6 million) of the 20 million use Cash today
2.5% (500,000) of the 20 million that cross are from Outside of California

Who are the 30% that are paying with cash today?

  • Crossing more than 4 times per month = 10% This audience will migrate to FasTrak.
  • Crossing less than 4 times per month = 18% This audience will migrate to a combination of FasTrak and Pay-By-Plate options
  • Rental Cars = 2%*

*Rental Cars not currently in the License Plate database that is now used by the Bay Area Rental car agencies whereby they have the license of their fleet on file at our FasTrak customer service center

Cost Per Transaction

With All Electronic Tolling, we looked at the real cost per toll transaction. This best demonstrates that manual toll collection is the most expensive way to collect tolls. The fully load costs for each type of toll transaction is shown below and includes things such as banking fees, credit card fees, the fees we pay to the Customer Service Center contractor to be there running the CSC and processing the transactions, cost of other onsite staff here such as electricians that have to keep the system up and running are projected as follows:

  • Cash $0.83 per transaction
  • Invoice $0.67 per transaction
  • Pay-By-Plate (tied to License Plate) $0.39 per transaction
  • FasTrak $0.25 per transaction