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Cost-Conscious Drivers Avoiding Higher Bay Bridge Toll

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San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge (AP)

San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge (AP)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Commuters changed their driving habits in response to the recently increased toll on the Bay Bridge, a new study found. Drivers said they’d do anything to avoid paying $6 to cross the span during peak commute hours.

KCBS’ Dave Padilla Reports:

On July 1, 2010, The Bay Area Toll Authority increased toll for non-carpool drivers from $4 to $6 between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., and 3:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., weekdays.

The BATA subsequently studied driver response to the new toll, and determined that many drivers changed their schedules to avoid the higher toll.

The BATA compared data from September 13-24, 2009, and September 13-24, 2010. The data showed that more drivers crossed before or after the peak commute hours this year, compared to last year.

Specifically, several hundred more cars passed through the toll plaza between 4:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. during the subject week this year, compared to the same period last year.

By contrast, there were several hundred fewer cars on the Bay Bridge between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. this year, compared to the same period last year.

“It used to be that I might go in early, no big deal. But, I’d be fighting traffic. So my wait was for the traffic, but now I definitely wait because of the toll,” confirmed one commuter, who drove to Treasure Island to coach rugby. “I avoid going to the city late in the afternoon. My work schedule is flexible but I won’t go in until after 10:00 a.m. And it also helps, too, because there’s no traffic.”

“How about you, are you trying to beat it?” KCBS asked Marcelles Brown as he filled up his gas tank at an Emeryville station. “Oh yeah, I’m trying to beat it.”

Brown pointed out that there was a downside to the shift in commuter habits.

“The early morning commute is busier than normal because people are trying to beat the $6 toll.”

Still, he was willing to get on the road earlier, too.

“You know, those extra bucks add up. That’s gas, that’s food for the kids, that’s lunch money, it’s milk money, it’s diaper money, you know, it’s all accounted for.”

July 1, 2010 also marked the start of a $2.50 toll for carpoolers, who were previously entitled to free trips across the span.

BART, meanwhile, reported increased ridership in the wake of the toll changes.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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