A majority of California lawmakers and bicyclists are uniting in an effort to keep the Golden Gate and other Bay Area toll bridges free for pedestrians and bicyclists, despite such a potential fee bringing in a bunch of cash to line state coffers.
Assembly members Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) joined local bicycle groups at the Golden Gate Bridge on Friday morning to call for Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature on Assembly Bill 40 – a bill that would halt all sidewalk tolls on state-owned bridges until 2021. There are seven state-owned toll bridges in the San Francisco Bay Area.
If the Golden Gate Highway and Transportation District did decide to impose a sidewalk fee, it would be the first of its kind for contiguous bridges in the United States, the lawmakers said.
The bill passed with overwhelming support in the Senate on Sept. 8 and then in the Assembly on Sept. 9. Now, it’s up to Brown to sign it into law – but if he does so, he could face backlash from the Golden Gate Highway and Transportation District.
AB 40 was written in response to the district’s vote last October to research the benefits of implementing a sidewalk toll for cyclists and pedestrians. The district’s hope is that revenue would offset a projected operating deficit over the next five years.
A 2005 analysis found that a toll on the Golden Gate Bridge – the most visited bridge in the state – could generate $1.5 million annually.
But Ting said it isn’t worth it, and that such a toll would discourage walkers.
“Sidewalk tolls would unravel decades of work to promote active lifestyles, create public recreation opportunities, and encourage environmentally sustainable transportation methods,” Ting said. “Our bridges connect the network of parks, paths, and trails we’ve built around the Bay Area. By passing this bill, we sent a powerful message that this legacy must be protected for all to enjoy.”
The California Bicycle Coalition, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, Marin County Bicycle Coalition and Walk San Francisco joined Ting and Levine. Supporters were seen holding signs urging Brown to sign the bill as they walked and rode their bikes along the sidewalk, free of charge.
Milena Stojnic, who was with the supporters, said she would consider donating but that a required toll would send an unwelcoming sign to visitors.
“I think a coin donation may be OK," she said. "But a fee would make me think twice if I should walk [the bridge] or just take a picture from afar."