Search title image

Toll Increase Information

Frequently Asked Questions about July 2010 Bridge Toll Increase

Q: What is BATA?
A: The Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) was created by the California Legislature to administer the base toll revenues generated by the Bay Area’s seven state-owned toll bridges. In January 1998, MTC — the transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county region — began operations as BATA. For more information about BATA, go to <www.mtc.ca.gov/bata>.

Q: What are the carpool hours on the bridges?
A: Effective July 1, 2010, the carpool hours for all state-owned toll bridges in the Bay Area will be Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m., and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Q: Which vehicles qualify for the discounted toll rate for carpools?
A: Carpools meeting the occupancy requirements for each of the state-owned bridges during designated carpool hours (click here for occupancy requirements for each bridge). The discounted toll rate is also provided during designated carpool hours to inherently-low-emission vehicles — such as electric or natural gas autos — displaying eligible DMV-issued decals and to hybrid vehicles displaying eligible DMV-issued decals. All vehicles using the carpool lanes during designated carpool hours must have a valid FasTrak account and toll tag to pay the toll.

Q: What is FasTrak®?
A: FasTrak is an electronic toll collection (ETC) system that allows you to prepay your bridge tolls, eliminating the need to stop at the toll plaza. The system has three components: a toll tag, which is placed inside your vehicle; an overhead antenna in the toll plaza, which reads the toll tag and automatically deducts the appropriate toll from your prepaid account; and video cameras to identify toll evaders.

Q: Why do carpools have to use FasTrak® to pay the toll?
A: So they can avoid stopping at the toll plaza to pay cash for the discounted carpool toll. Time savings is a significant benefit for motorists using the carpool lanes. This benefit would be lost if vehicles were required to stop to pay a cash toll in the carpool lanes.

Q: How do I open a FasTrak® account?
A: The most convenient way to open a new FasTrak account is to pick up a toll tag from one of our retailers and then register it online. For select retail locations, click here. You can also enroll online by mail/fax, phone, or in person. For more information about the different enrollment methods, click here.

Q: If I'm in a cash toll collection lane, can I use a credit or debit card, or a personal check to pay my toll?
A:
No, the toll collectors cannot accept credit or debit card payments, or personal checks. However, you can arrange to prepay tolls by credit/debit card or check, when you set up a FasTrak account.

Q: What if I accidently drive through a carpool lane but I don’t have FasTrak?
A: If you drive through a carpool toll lane without paying the toll (even if you meet occupancy requirements for the carpool lane), an image of your license plate will be captured and a violation notice will be sent within 21 days to the vehicle’s registered owner at the address on file with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This procedure is pursuant to Streets and Highways Code Section 27174.1. The first notice requests payment for the toll amount and an additional $25 penalty. If you fail to respond to the instructions on the first notice, a second notice will be sent for the toll amount plus a $70 penalty ($25 penalty plus $45 late penalty). Failure to respond to the second notice will result in additional penalties and fees, and referral of the amount due to a collections agency and/or the withholding of your vehicle registration by the DMV. All penalties will be waived if you sign up for a FasTrak account upon receipt of your first violation notice.

Q: Do motorcycles have to pay a toll during weekday commute periods?
A: Yes. Motorcycles pay the reduced rate of $2.50 during carpool hours and the full toll during non-carpool hours. As with carpools, motorcycles are required to use FasTrak® and drive in a designated carpool lane to qualify for the discounted toll rate. BATA recommends motorcyclists keep their toll tag in the breast pocket of a jacket or in a saddlebag to ensure the tag can be “read” by the FasTrak® equipment.

Q: Do buses, such as Greyhound buses and charter buses, get toll-free passage? What about Vanpools?
A: Not all buses and vanpools get toll-free passage on the bridges. Only buses and vanpools meeting the definitions below are allowed to cross toll-free at any time in designated lane(s), in accordance with BATA operational procedures. Passage through staffed lanes requires a toll-free commute bus ticket or a non-revenue FasTrak® toll tag issued by the Authority, or an axle-based toll will be charged.

A commute bus is defined as a vehicle that is:

  • designed, used or maintained for the transportation of more than 10 persons including the driver;
  • operated across a state-owned toll bridge on a route commencing and terminating within 50 miles of the toll collection point of such bridge; and
  • operated on a regular schedule for any municipal or public corporation, transit district, public utility district, political subdivision or private company for the nonprofit work-related transportation of its employees or by any transportation company operating under a certificate of public convenience and necessity issued by the California Public Utilities Commission.

A vanpool vehicle is defined as a vehicle that is:

  • operating under the provisions of current ridesharing laws and regulations, and designed for carrying more than 10 but not more than 15 persons including the driver, and that is maintained and used primarily for the nonprofit work-related transportation of persons for the purpose of ridesharing.

Q: Do multi-axle RVs and cars pulling trailers pay less than commercial trucks?
A: No. State law (Streets and Highways Code Sec. 30150.5) requires BATA to base toll charges on the number of axles on a vehicle. The current toll collection system can only differentiate between vehicles based on axles. It is not set up for either electronic or manual toll collection based on other factors such a vehicle type.

Q: What is congestion pricing?
A: Also known as time-of-day pricing, congestion pricing involves charging a higher toll during the peak periods on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, and a lower toll during non-peak periods. This is similar to how rates are charged for utilities, hotels and airlines. Congestion pricing began on the Bay Bridge on July 1, 2010, with the toll rate set at $6 during weekday peak periods (from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.), $4 during weekday non-peak periods, and $5 on weekends.

Q: What is Caltrans’ role in toll bridge operations?
A: Caltrans owns and operates the California state highway system, including all seven of the Bay Area’s state-owned toll bridges.