Supervisors approve resolution to support a state bill that would hike bridge tolls to fund transit operations
City supervisors voted 10–1 in approving a resolution that supports a bill by state Sen. Scott Wiener that would increase the bridge tolls for five years to fund transit agencies
Before taking a summer recess, San Francisco supervisors signaled support for a state bill that would increase bridge tolls for five years to fund Bay Area transit agencies that are struggling financially.
At the board’s July 25 meeting, supervisors voted 10–1 in approving a resolution in support of Senate Bill 532, authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener. The bill, if passed by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, would raise bridge tolls on seven state-owned bridges by $1.50 for five years. The revenue is estimated to generate up to $900 million. It would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.
While the recently signed budget by Newsom included $1.1 billion for transit agencies to use for operation costs, Bay Area transit officials said the amount was not enough to cover budget deficits to get to 2026 where there are possible plans to put a regional transportation measure on the ballot.
The Bay Area is expected to receive approximately $400 million of the $1.1 billion, which will be allocated to not just BART and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, but to other Bay Area transit systems that are struggling financially as well. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission will distribute the $400 million and will decide how to allocate the funds to Bay Area transit agencies.
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman sponsored the resolution in support of SB 532 and was first in front of the full board at their July 18 meeting, but was referred to the board’s Land Use and Transportation Committee by Supervisor Shamann Walton for more discussion on the potential impacts on low-income Bay Area residents who drive and cross the bridges to get to jobs, for example.
“I am reluctantly in support of this bill, but it definitely warrants a conversation in committee due to negative impacts on low-income communities, communities of color and people of color,” Supervisor Shamann Walton said,
He added that communities should have the opportunity to learn more about SB 532.
Supervisor Connie Chan, who voted against the resolution, cited a San Francisco Chronicle article last month where the city’s chief economist, Ted Egan, said that increasing bridge tolls could dissuade people from driving into the city as San Francisco’s recovery remains slower than other major cities following the pandemic.
Chan also echoed the same sentiments as Walton that the bridge toll increase would affect those who are low-income that need to cross the bridges.
“A lot of essential workers do come through to San Francisco not just through public transportation, but from time to time again through driving as well. Bridge toll is going to be burdensome financially for many,” Chan said.
Supervisors sitting as members of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority board also took a support position on SB 532 with Chan in dissent.
A section of Wiener’s bill does read that the State Legislature intends to “enact future legislation” to require the MTC to study, design and implement an equity-based program within two years of the effective date of the bridge toll increase.
The Bay Area Council, which represents over 330 employers in the Bay Area, is opposed to the bill and has shared similar concerns over the bridge toll increase to drivers who are low-income and people of color.
Members of Congress, who represent the Bay Area, have also raised concerns about the possible bridge toll increases on their constituents who depend on driving to and from work, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday. They penned a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom with those concerns.
SB 532 recently passed out of the Assembly Transportation Committee and heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
This story has been updated to include Bay Area members of Congress who expressed concerns about SB 532.