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Will New Tolls Kill Casual Carpooling in San Francisco?

About a year ago, we covered the awesome phenomenon of "casual carpooling" in the San Francisco Bay Area. Basically, it works like this: If you...


About a year ago, we covered the awesome phenomenon of "casual carpooling" in the San Francisco Bay Area. Basically, it works like this: If you drive into San Francisco with three or more people in the car, you get to use the faster carpool lane and skip the toll. If you want to get into the city, no matter whether you're driving or need a ride, it makes sense to find people to carpool with. So informal pick-up spots have sprung up in the bedroom communities outside San Francisco and strangers carpooled with strangers. Super efficient.Now one of the critical incentives that made this wonderful situation possible is being tweaked.
Last month, as it was jacking up the trans-Bay bridge toll for single motorists to $6 (it was $1 before the construction got underway) the cash-strapped Bay Area Toll Bridge Authority also voted to impose a $2.50 toll on the more than 10,000 car pool vehicles that head into San Francisco during each morning's commute.There's real concern that the tolls will kill the casual car pool as it now exists. It almost certainly will reduce the incentive for motorists to stop for riders.
It would be a shame if the new toll kills casual carpool, but I don't think it will. Splitting a $2.50 toll is much cheaper than going solo and paying the whole $6. And people who participate in casual carpooling are interested in marginal savings.The real question is this: Given that most casual carpool cars end up with three people in them, why set a $2.50 toll? Make it $2.25, or even $3. Just something you can split three ways.Image from Wikimedia Commons.
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