Congestion Pricing for Traffic Jams and other Mischief

Traffic on the freeways especially in rush hours is never fun.  Here in California we know a few things about freeways having built many of them—badly.  It seems as if the CalTrans engineers never met a choke point they didn’t like so driving in the San Francisco Bay area is full of interchanges,bridges, tunnels, toll booths and other choke points that slow us down when we least want it.

HOV lanes or carpool lanes have both helped and hurt the commute traffic.  It has encouraged casual carpooling where people gather at a park and ride site and decide whether it is safe to either get into a car with someone you do not know or pick up a stranger who might be a rapist, mugger or smell bad for the trek across the Bay Bridge into San Francisco.

Fast Track promised to revolutionize the commute by offering automatic toll lanes that ‘ding’ your toll account when you pass over a toll bridge or tunnel.  But it also set up the capability to endlessly ‘ding’ us with more tolls.

Here are a few coming your way soon:

  • Car Pool Lanes are no longer free. They will now cost you half the regular toll price on Bay Area bridges and you must have Fast Track.
  • HOV Lanes will become HOT Lanes. All those high occupancy vehicle lanes on the freeways designed to speed commute hour traffic can now be entered with your Fast Track device for a toll even if you are a solo commuter.
  • City Gate Congestion Pricing. San Francisco is flirting with a commuter tax which would charge every vehicle entering the City $6.00 during congestion pricing hours.  This has enraged commuters and their suburban politicians.  San Mateo County replied to the San Francisco proposal by suggesting it would also charge a congestion transport fee on Highway 101 on the stretch from the San Francisco city limits to SFO airport.  Opps!

Is this about traffic congestion or money?

The answer is probably both but the prospect of new revenue streams from people who can not vote is just too seductive for politicians with local budget deficits.  All of this mischief is made possible by new technology called Fast Track that seduced us into setting up debit accounts to allow whizzing passed the tool booths on those bridges.

Imagine the possibilities for Fast Track?

  1. Ding and Whiz Stops where your fast track is used to access a public restroom and paying for its maintenance.
  2. Shop or Else Parking where the shopping center hits you with a large parking fee unless you buy something.
  3. Public Transit Pass is one I do like replacing all those BART, Clipper, MUNI and other public transit passes with the swipe of my Fast Track card.
  4. Car Insurance at the Pump where dispensing gas requires swiping your Fast Track card which is ‘dinged’ for an incremental auto liability insurance premium each time you get gas instead of monthly charges.
  5. Parking Ticket Collection Agent where a failure to pay a parking or traffic ticket means the amount is drained out of your fast track account as a debit the next time you use it triggering a withdrawal from your bank account to refill the Fast Track.  Gotcha!

Big Brother is here and his name is Hal!


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