For over 30 years, casual carpoolers invited strangers into their cars to avoid paying a toll on the Bay Bridge. This uncommon act saved everyone both money and time, and was good for more than a few good stories.
On July 1 of last year, the the MTC began charging a $2.50 toll on the Bay Bridge carpool lane. How has this affected casual carpool?
- Each day, about 5,000 fewer cars use the carpool lane on the Bay Bridge.
- Many more drivers are using the non-carpool lane before 5 am and after 10 am (and getting a lower toll than peak period drivers).
- BART ridership is up 8% during the morning rush.
- The Metropolitan Transportation Commission is on track to raise an extra $164 million a year that will go towards dozens of transit and highway projects throughout the Bay Area.
- Commute delays dropped about 15% (from 27 to 23 minutes) compared to the previous year according to the Bay Area Toll Authority.
But how has the toll affected the experience of casual carpool, itself?
There still seems to be some uncertainty on toll etiquette. Browsing various blogs and casual carpool sites, it looks like consensus is beginning to form on how to handle the toll.
If as a driver, you would prefer to have passengers contribute to the toll, or if as a passenger you cannot contribute, straighten this out before getting in the car. One of the tenants of casual carpool is that you never accept a passenger/ride that makes you uncomfortable. This includes payment. Just wait for another passenger or another ride.
If you are collecting contributions towards the toll, try not to ask for more than the value of the toll. $2.50 splits evenly between two passengers, but not three. Do your best to divide evenly. Asking $1 each from three people makes more sense than trying to get the $1.25 two-person rate from three people. If you end up ahead at the end of the week, consider paying it forward and giving a free ride to someone that needs it.
Krista Michell, a Pinole resident quoted in the SF Examiner, called turning a profit on casual carpool “disgusting,” saying “it kind of goes against the whole idea of the car-pooling system.”
Another rider on RideNow.org reports being asked to exit the car before the TransBay Terminal (the standard stop) because she didn’t have the requested $1.25. “All this over a dollar.”
Commuting is hard enough. Don’t make it harder on each other.
How have the July 2010 toll changes affected your commute?