On Jan. 30, 2013 officials announced plans to implement full electronic tolls for the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco by April. Soon, the congenial toll booth employees will permanently disappear from the quaint booths that span the southern end of the bridge where Highway 101 enters San Francisco from Marin County. In their place will be a barely tested electronic system. For motorists who fail to prepare, there may be headaches galore as toll invoices pile up in their mailboxes.
Ever since the FasTrak system was added at the Golden Gate Bridge in 2000, traffic congestion was reduced greatly. Delays at the toll plaza are generally limited to cash customers heading south. But soon, cash will not be an option. Motorists will not be able to stop at the Toll Plaza, and should benefit from improved traffic flow. Tourists to the Napa and Sonoma areas will be affected as well as interstate visitors.
Didn't the Golden Gate Bridge conversion start Feb. 1, 2013?
A new 'no cash' system was due to begin in November, but glitches delayed the start date several times. Something called "Functionality Testing" begins in a week or so and will end in late March, when toll takers disappear altogether. The conversion will not start for a few days and will test for system problems along the way.
What will happen?
Testing begins soon on the new Payment Network, which offer locations for in-person CASH payments for FasTrak, Pay-By-Plate (License Plate Account, One-Time Payment, Toll Invoice) Accounts as well as Toll Violations.
When all electronic tolling is implemented, cash will no longer be accepted and motorists will not be able to stop at the Toll Plaza. If you don't have a FasTrak, what can you do? If you do nothing, images of your license plates are taken, and within a few days a Toll Invoice is mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle. If you want a FasTrak, just click here for a retail location. If you live out of state, it will be really confusing. The Bridge District suggests you buy 'license plate credits' in advance.
What about rental cars crossing the Golden Gate Bridge?
At the time of reservation, anyone renting a vehicle who plans to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and return southbound should ask the rental agent if a convenience–fee based tolling program is offered. The majority of rental vehicle companies offer convenient toll payment options, so that toll fees are part of the rental agreement.
If the rental company does not offer a tolling program for the Golden Gate Bridge, be sure to ask how that company assesses tolls on rental vehicles as the tolls are tied to the rental vehicle’s license plate. If the company offers no additional toll payment information for the Golden Gate Bridge, then you must take action BEFORE your first southbound trip over the Golden Gate Bridge. This can be done by making a One-Time Payment by telephone, online or at a nearby Cash Payment Location or by opening a limited duration License Plate Account. Otherwise, you may wind up in a dispute with the rental agency later.