A California Assembly bill that would prohibit tolls for pedestrians and bicycle riders on state-owned bridges passed the Assembly Transportation Committee with a vote of 31 to 2. Assemblymember Phil Ting’s A.B. 40, originally drafted to apply only to the Golden Gate Bridge, was amended to apply statewide.
A.B 40 was a response to a proposal last year from the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District to study tolling bicyclists and pedestrians as one solution to its budget shortfall. Advocates argued that it would discourage walking and biking and generate little revenue.
“More bicycling solves so many problems in California that government agencies, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, should welcome and encourage bicycling,” wrote the California Bicycle Coalition in support of the bill. “The idea that ‘everyone should pay their fair share’ is a noble one but to use that argument to justify charging people when they walk or bicycle reflects a naïve and erroneous understanding of how we pay for the benefits and impacts of our transportation system.”
The Assembly Transportation Committee analysis concluded that “if free bridge access for those walking and using bicycles is good policy on the Golden Gate Bridge as a means of promoting these modes of transportation and their many benefits, surely it is good policy on all toll bridges.”
Assemblymember Ting accepted the suggested amendment to apply the prohibition universally to all state-owned bridges. With the amendment, the Golden Gate Bridge Authority removed its opposition to the bill, although did not go so far as to support it, stopping at a neutral stance.
A similar bill, also written in response to a Golden Gate Bridge Authority proposal to charge bicyclists and pedestrians toll, got all the way through the legislative process in 2005, but it was vetoed by then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.