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Bill proposing Bay Area bridge toll increase for public transit paused by authors

Legislators vow to focus on developing other strategies
The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

A bill proposing a temporary toll increase for Bay Area bridges to fund public transportation has been shelved, its authoring legislators said Monday.

State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City) said in a joint statement that State Bill 532 has taken a pause, and will instead focus their efforts on developing strategies for more transit funding for the next legislative session.

If passed the bill would have raised tolls by $1.50 on seven Bay Area bridges for five years, starting in 2024. The estimated $180 million in revenue would have been used to sustain funding for Bay Area transit agencies as federal emergency resources dry up post-COVID-19 lockdowns.

The bill was intended to give agencies enough time to continue services until they find a stable source of funding, which could potentially come in the form of a regional ballot measure in the future.

"While there was not enough time to reach a consensus on how to solve this looming problem, we made substantial progress on a solution," Wiener said. "I will continue to make transit operations funding a major priority, and I look forward to continuing those discussions into the fall."

The pause comes after multiple California representatives expressed concerns about the legislation unfairly impacting low-income residents, and that it would not provide sustainable solutions for public transportation agencies in the long-term.

Wiener and Wilson said that in response to the opposition, they will collaborate with Bay Area legislators in a working group to determine which transit funding proposals to pursue next legislative session that everyone agrees on. Potential proposals include state budget allocations, temporary toll increases and the regional transit funding measure, among other ideas.

"Increasing tolls can be a significant burden to Bay Area commuters who are already dealing with high cost of living, inflation, and other expenses. From an equity perspective, tolls can have substantial repercussions especially for those where public transit is not a viable option," Wilson said.

"We need to ensure there is accountability and verifiable data collection so that our proposed solutions are evidence-based and defensible to those being asked to bear the burden of this investment. I look forward to facilitating these discussions along with Senator Wiener in the Fall with interested members of the Bay Area Caucus," she added.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency said in a statement on social media that it found the pause "very disappointing" and a "blow" to their efforts to preserve Muni service.

"But we're going to keep fighting for the hundreds of thousands of people who rely on Muni every single day," the agency said. "We can't afford to lose transit."

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