The BART Board of Directors voted June 30 to support Senate Bill 532, authored by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-District 11, which temporarily raises Bay Area bridge tolls by $1.50 from January 2024 to December 2028 in order to fund public transit.
The bill is expected to raise $180 million annually, with 90% of the revenue distributed to maintain service at current levels, cleanliness and safety improvements, according to Alex Walker, a federal and state legislative affairs official for BART. He also said it is too early to know the amount of money BART would receive.
The increase will cause tolls to rise from $7 to $8.50 on all bridges, except for the Golden Gate Bridge, which was excluded from the bill. In combination with Regional Measure 3, the toll would increase to $9.50 in 2025, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission website.
“Even if 100% (of the funding) went to BART, it’s not enough to solve the problem,” said Director Rebecca Saltzman during the meeting. “We don’t know when the fiscal cliff hits now — we know it’s coming sometime in 2026, maybe not 2025 anymore, and we know we can’t pass a measure before then, so we need to support revenue to this agency. We know what’s on the line: cuts to service, the police department and everything that makes BART function.”
Yesterday, the bill was presented to the California Assembly Committee. It is co-authored by Sen. Josh Becker, D-District 13; and Sen. Dave Cortese, D-District 15; and Assemblymembers Mia Bonta, D-District 18; Matt Haney, D-District 17; Alex Lee, D-District 24; Philip Ting, D-District 19, and Buffy Wicks, D-District 14, as noted in the bill.
All present members of the board voted to support the bill, except BART Directors Liz Ames and Debora Allen, who voted against it. During the meeting, Ames noted that the bill was a “stopgap” emergency measure and BART is not taking any other measures to prepare for the upcoming financial crisis. She proposed to amend the bill to mention more pilot pass programs and consolidation of the Bay Area’s 27 transit agencies. Ames noted that this bill was rushed.
Saltzman also noted that BART needs sustainable funding in the future and emergency funding now, encouraging fellow directors to support the bill.
Although the bill’s intention is funding public transit, it may increase financial pressure on Bay Area drivers, especially commuters who frequently cross bridges. Matt Padilla commutes from Vallejo to Richmond for his job, which requires him to cross the Carquinez Bridge.
He said the toll is a “necessary evil” he must pay to get to work and afford graduate school.
“Anytime you look at a job, you really have to take a look at your expenses every month, every paycheck cycle,” Padilla said. “Each day I have to think about how much I’m making minus how much toll I’m spending that week. It’s another bill on top of everything else.”