I know it’s rude to call incredibly stupid decisions the “R word.” But then I thought of a few totally acceptable “R words” that apply to the Golden Gate Bridge District’s decision to consider charging pedestrians and cyclists tolls. Like, retrograde? Regressive? Oh yes, RIDICULOUS? Uh-huh.
I can’t even get too worked up about this because I know San Francisco is not going to let this happen. The city’s got a soda tax on the ballot because they want people to be healthy. So how on earth would it make sense to remove an existing financial incentive to commute without a motorized vehicle?
I get that the Bridge District needs money. But it’s not even clear that charging walkers and bikers to cross the Golden Gate would actually leave them with more money. After all, some people would opt to drive across if they lost the cost savings from crossing by bike. More cars = more maintenance. There goes the extra money you got from those tolls.
The Chronicle’s story (by my friend Michael Cabanatuan) about the proposal made me think of a different, more sensible idea of how to raise the Bridge District’s revenue. Michael went to the bridge and asked people what they thought of the toll idea. Locals were appalled — but European tourists said they would have been willing to pay.
Of course! It’s the same concept that allows Muni to charge $6 for a cable car ride (even for kids) but lets pass-holders ride for much cheaper. Price discrimination! The Bridge District should look to tourism for support. They run buses across the bridge. Do they run buses with narrated tours? If not, they should. They should provide docents for walk-across tours and charge for them. Or rent out audiotour headsets. The tourists just told you they would be willing to pay to walk across the bridge. Give them a nice experience, and take their money.