Drivers are likely to face a toll hike on the Golden Gate Bridge next year, which would be the first increase in more than five years.
The Golden Gate Bridge District board of directors met today and said a projected $142 million budget deficit over five years leaves them with few options.
“I don’t think we have any choice but to raise the fare, given the budget concerns,” said director Dick Grosboll.
The current toll is $6, but most of the 60,000 southbound drivers who cross the bridge daily use FasTrak and pay a discounted $5 toll.
Bridge district spokeswoman Mary Currie said the district is considering getting rid of the discount, as well as raising the toll by $1. That could amount to a $7 bridge toll in 2014. However, she said officials are looking into implementing the hike incrementally.
“We don’t necessarily have to go to one dollar because we do have the electronic tolling. We could go to 20 cents, 30 cents, 40 cents, et cetera,” she said.
Some directors questioned whether the district should continue to rely on toll revenue to fund 60 percent of its budget.
“The public only has a certain amount of toll tolerance,” said director Janet Reilly. “How long can we sustain this model without fundamentally changing it for the financial health of the district?”
Other directors pointed out that the toll has remained steady while transit fares have gone up 5 percent each year. The fare hikes discourage people from taking transit, said David Schonbrunn, president of the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund.
“Increasing transit fares is never a good thing, and in fact one of the best ways to increase ridership is to decrease fares,” said Schonbrunn, adding that fare hikes run afoul of regional planning goals.
According to bridge district officials, the $142 million shortfall was brought on by a number of capital projects, including a seismic retrofit, floor beam replacement and south tower rehabilitation.
A proposed timeline envisions a public hearing process beginning in January, with a toll hike going into effect as early as April.