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Electronic Tolling On Golden Gate Bridge May Not Spot Motorcycles

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With KPIX 5 cameras rolling, motorcyclist Alan Baker crossed the Golden Gate Bridge four times on July 2, 2013. The electronic tolling system only recorded one crossing on that date. (CBS)

With KPIX 5 cameras rolling, motorcyclist Alan Baker crossed the Golden Gate Bridge four times on July 2, 2013. The electronic tolling system only recorded one crossing on that date. (CBS)

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — It’s been just over three months since the Golden Gate Bridge laid off toll takers and switched to an all-electronic system. While bridge officials made the move to save money, one motorcyclist may have found a flaw in the system.

For Alan Baker, his weekend escape is a ride on his new motorcycle across the Golden Gate Bridge. The toll is supposed to cost him $6. But ever since the toll plaza became fully electronic, he has not paid.

“There are signs out there that say just drive through and they will mail you something. And it’s probably been a couple of months and I’ve got nothing,” Baker told KPIX 5.

Baker said he is not trying to cheat. “Oh no, I go through just like all the cars. I am more than willing to pay the fee, they are just not collecting it,” he said.

So what’s going on? When KPIX 5 first contacted the Golden Gate Bridge District, a spokeswoman said it is a glitch. Motorcycles can sometimes slip through, because the computerized system can’t always spot them.

But when we sat down for an interview with Mary Currie, her story had changed.

“I wasn’t correct on that,” she said. “Every single vehicle that goes through the (toll) plaza, we are capturing the plates.”

In the case of Alan Baker, Currie said, “It was a matter of a plate misreading.”

Currie read an email from the Information Technology department: “TTI found one transaction for this motorcycle since we converted to all-electronic tolling on March 27th, and it occurred on July 2nd,” she said.

There was no mention of the half a dozen times Alan crossed the bridge previously. As for July 2nd, that happened to be the day KPIX 5 interviewed him at the bridge. We equipped him with a small camera and to get different angles we actually had him cross not once, but 4 times.

“As soon as they found the first one they just stopped. So now they are continuing the search,” said Currie.

Two days later she sent KPIX 5 another email, saying the IT department has now “identified four total transactions” on July 2nd.

Baker found it all very suspicious. “They are trying to save money so they laid a bunch of employees off, and then it seems like they are losing revenue because they are not actually collecting everybody’s tolls. It just doesn’t make sense,” he said.

Currie said only 1 percent of the nearly 2 million toll transactions per month are seeing “anomalies.”

However, as a result of our story, she said the Golden Gate Bridge district is now reviewing the accuracy of its automated toll collection system, especially in regards to motorcycles.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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