The Golden Gate Bridge: a San Francisco icon, a world traveler’s destination, and most importantly, a means of getting from one side of the bay to the other. It seems that people may have forgotten that the bridge is a form of accessibility, not a ride at Disneyland. The city of San Francisco has decided to take into serious consideration the idea of charging pedestrians—walking and biking—to cross the bridge.
The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District says that they expect to be at a $33 million defect in five years at the rate they are going. They just recently committed to new projects including implementing a $76 million suicide net that may cause this defect to increase.
Charging pedestrians to walk and bike over the Golden Gate is one of many potential solutions to paying the bills. With an estimated ten thousand pedestrians walk and six thousand bike across the landmark every day according to district estimates.
In a meeting last month about the possible toll, San Francisco board member Scott Weiner argues, “People who walk across the bridge do not put wear and tear on the bridge.” He then went on to explain that cyclist damage is minimal. This is true and those who drive the bridge know it.
“I think the only way I would support a pedestrian toll to walk the Golden Gate Bridge is if the toll for drivers would drop because of it,” says Evan Williams who crosses the bridge on his way to work every day. “Even then I would only support it because it benefited me, not because it made sense. Pedestrians don’t destroy the road requiring money to fix them, cars do!”
The point that has failed to be addressed is the fact that the money would help fund the suicide prevention barrier, a cost that will primarily serve pedestrians. The money will provide safety to those who walk or bike the beautiful bridge.
Of the top five most famous bridges in the world—The Golden Gate, Tower Bridge, Sydney Harbour Bridge, The Brooklyn Bridge, and Ponte Vecchio—none of them charge a pedestrian fee. Pedestrian tolls have been attempted in the past, even on the Golden Gate, but they were wildly unpopular and did not last long.
If the pedestrian toll is decided upon, it will not be for a few years, so we still have plenty of time to debate the pros and cons.