Golden Gate Bridge Toll Increase Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Who runs the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District? The District is a special District of California formed to build and maintain the Golden Gate Bridge. A 19-member Board of Directors sets District policy. In the early 1930s, six counties voted to put a lien on their personal property as security for the bonds used to build the Bridge. These counties are San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, and Del Norte. District Board members are appointed by these six county Boards of Supervisors. Appointments are reviewed every two years. There are 10 members from counties north of the Golden Gate Bridge and nine from San Francisco. Of the current members, eight have served for less than two years.

  2. What do the Board of Directors get paid? Directors are paid $50 per meeting day, up to a maximum of $5,000 a year. The Board President, a member of all committees, may be paid up to $7,500 a year. Serving Board members can choose to be covered by medical insurance, but not all members sign up for this insurance. Board members receive free tolls only when conducting District business. Once retired from the Board, they do not receive a pension, paid health benefits, or free toll passage.

  3. Why is a toll still necessary when the original construction bonds for the Bridge are paid off? Today, routine maintenance and daily operation of the Bridge has an annual budget of $39 million, funded by tolls. Tolls are also required for major maintenance projects that preserve the structural integrity of the Bridge, as well as improve safety and operating efficiency.

  4. Why does the District fund public transportation service with toll revenues? How does it benefit me, a toll payer? In 1969, traffic congestion was increasing steadily on the Bridge, and the State of California passed legislation allowing the District to provide public transit bus and ferry services. Providing transit as an alternative to the car has successfully kept congestion levels down on the Bridge. The District provides transit services without support from local sales tax measures or dedicated general funds. The District does not have the authority to levy taxes. The use of tolls is the only available local means to support the District's transbay transit services. Without transit, there would be a 41% increase in traffic in the morning peak hour each day. Additional 17,000 cars would travel San Francisco streets!

  5. What other revenue, besides tolls, does the District receive? Are there other sources that could be used? The current operating and capital budget is funded by: 35% Tolls; 34% Grants; 13% Fares; 6% other sources (advertising); and 12% from toll dollars set aside for capital projects. The District aggressively pursues grants and has added new revenue sources (the Bridge CafŽ and bus advertising).

  6. Is the District considering a toll for bicyclists and pedestrians on the Bridge? What is the process and timeline for that consideration? The District has begun examining the re-introduction of a toll for bicyclists and pedestrians. These user groups were charged a toll up until 1971. The question being considered by the Board is whether all users, no matter the amount of impact they may have on the Bridge structure, should play a role in helping to pay for costs to operate and maintain the structure that provides access over the Strait. Initial analysis information should be available in August 2002.

  7. What has the District done to control costs and reduce the need for a toll increase? Over the past few years, the District has successfully managed its finances and aggressively sought ways to stretch those resources through better management practices. It's been 11 years since the last toll increase in 1991, instead of the five years studied at that time. Significant areas impacted by this efficiency focus include a recent decision to refurbish existing older ferries, instead of buying new ones. This results in savings of $15 million in purchase costs and $5 million in on-going operating costs over the next 10 years. Another recent example is the purchase of larger buses that carry more passengers per bus driver so that fewer new staff is required to carry increasing passenger loads.

  8. Has the District borrowed funds to help fund key projects like the seismic retrofit? Yes. In July 2000, the District borrowed $61 million to help fund the Seismic Retrofit. The funds will be paid back by toll revenues over the next 30 years.

  9. Is the District looking at raising bus and ferry fares, too? Yes. The District recently approved a fare increase, effective July 1. Over the past several years, fares have increased over 25%. Bus and ferry fares are an important part of the funding package, and further fare increases will be studied this fall.

  10. Is this problem being addressed only through a toll increase? The District's total financial shortfall over the next 10 years totals $2.5 billion. This shortfall estimate is based on projections of resources needed to continue existing levels of District services to the public, as well as maintenance or replacement of our existing assets. It does not include money for service expansion, or the acquisition of new facility, or vehicle assets beyond those already in the planning process. Assuming the currently approved toll and transit fare levels and a continuation of the stream of grant funding, approximately $1.5 million should be available. That leaves a $1 billion shortfall, half of which is needs for capital projects and half for operating expenses. To solve this, the District is looking at several opportunities. Imagine this problem as a stool with three legs: one leg is toll revenue; one leg is transit fare revenue; and one leg is continued cost savings and grant funds. All three will be necessary to fully address the fiscal shortfall.

  11. Why does the District have such a large and expensive capital program in the years ahead? The District capital program for the next 10 years totals about $1 billion, of which we expect to generate approximately $500 million from current revenue streams. A significant component of the $1 billion estimated need is several major maintenance projects associated with aging of the 65-year-old Golden Gate Bridge. These include projects such as the main cable recoating project and the Bridge underdeck-repainting project.

  12. Does the Marin County and Sonoma County sales tax measure reduce the funding shortfall? A transportation sales tax in Marin and/or Sonoma counties doesn't impact the shortfall. The sales tax funds are projected to be used for new and expanded transit service, not for current services. No District toll dollars would be used to fund development or operation of a regional rail service contemplated under the potential sales tax measures.

  13. What public outreach was done as part of this toll increase process? Between February 2002 and mid-June 2002, the potential toll increase was on the agenda of five publicly noticed Finance Committee meetings (February 7, March 7, April 25, May 9, May 23) and five publicly noticed Board of Directors meetings (February 8, March 22, May 10, May 24, May 30). Six public informational Open Houses were held in three counties between March and June. All Open House meetings and the Public Hearing were noticed with display ads in local newspapers, via the District's website, and with posters and flyers that widely circulated. The formal public hearing on June 13, 2002, was set on in early May to provide sufficient time to alert the public. After the public hearings, there will be a Finance Committee meeting June 27, 2002, and a Board Meeting on June 28. Key staff reports were posted on the District website throughout the process. Dozens of media stories were published on this topic. The public was able to comment via email, written correspondence or at open houses, committee meetings and board meetings.