Opinion: Why big business wants you to raise the bridge tolls

OPINION

BY DAVE PRICE
Daily Post Editor

My guess is that when you pick up the Post tomorrow morning, you’ll read that the bridge toll hike was approved overwhelmingly by voters in the nine Bay Area counties.

Big businesses such as Facebook, Google, PG&E, Salesforce, Paypal, Adobe, Genetech and others poured more than $2.7 million into the campaign to convince voters to support the toll increases, known as Regional Measure 3 or RM3. The money led to the predictable TV ads showing traffic jams and suggesting that if you just vote “yes” traffic congestion would go away.

It’s the same con we get at every election: vote to raise your taxes (or in this case the tolls) and they’ll take care of the traffic problem. But traffic just gets worse, year after year.

So why are big businesses supporting this measure?

They don’t want to get socked with the bill to solve transportation problems. So they have lobbying groups like the Bay Area Council and Carl Guardino’s Silicon Valley Leadership Group that try to shift the cost of transportation improvements on to the backs of the little guy.

And that’s what stinks about this toll increase.

For the driver who uses the Dumbarton or San Mateo bridges and works 250 days a year, the tolls now cost him $1,250 a year. If RM3 passes, that driver would be paying $2,000 a year in tolls, an increase of $750 a year, or $62.50 a month.

To high-income people, $62.50 more a month isn’t a concern. But for the middle- and lower-income commuters, it’s a serious hit.

The politicians don’t care

Most of our politicians couldn’t care less about the average Joe. Oh, sure, they’ll give the concept of helping the poor lip service when it’s convenient. But every chance they get, they will vote for policies that will raise the cost of living for middle-income people. They don’t care.

One of the biggest transportation challenges facing the mid-Peninsula is getting the money to build bridges over or under the Caltrain tracks, something government people call “grade separations.”

Without these bridges, here’s what will happen. Caltrain will be running trains more frequently after it switches from diesel to electric locomotives. When the crossing arms go down more often, traffic back ups will become a bigger problem. It will get even worse if high-speed rail happens.

Grade separations will ease the traffic. But there isn’t a cent in RM3 for local grade separations.

Mid-Peninsula residents will only get crumbs from RM3. There will be money to pay for a small fraction of the cost to upgrade the highway 92-101 interchange. And there’s $130 million for the Dumbarton rail project. That $130 million will probably be eaten up by consultants conducting endless studies. Dumbarton rail won’t happen — it’s something politicians trot out every few years to raise the hopes of commuters only to drop it after an election. Kind of like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown.

Facebook needs to make people think Dumbarton will happen so that they can argue that they’re doing something about traffic. It’s a cynical ploy to get the Menlo Park City Council to approve their next expansion project, the Willows Village.

But once they get the approval, it will be forgotten about.

More measures ahead

Anyway, my guess is that RM3 will pass tomorrow, and the politicians and their big business donors will throw a lavish party for themselves.

Then, this fall, there will be another transportation measure on the ballot. And there will be more in the next election. We’re going to keep on getting these measures until voters finally say, “No, fix these problems with the billions you’re already raking in.”

But I doubt that will ever happen. If people haven’t figured out this scam by now, they never will.

Editor Dave Price’s email address is price@padailypost.com.

7 Comments

  1. I disagree with this editorial. I voted Yes on RM3 because it provides funding for important Bay Area transit projects that will relieve traffic and get people out of their cars. One example is extending Caltrain to downtown San Francisco. That should have been done decades ago. It will also pay for more BART cars to increase capacity.

  2. Growth is causing this traffic. One way to reduce traffic is to stop the tear downs on 1 or 2 story buildings so they can be replaced with 8-story apartment buildings. We need a sign at the border of Palo Alto and Mountain View that says, “No Vacancy”.

    • Even more effective would be a “No Vacancy” sign in Chinese and Indian airports, and on the Mexican border. Mass migration has been disastrous for middle-class Bay Area residents and a boon for the bottomless greed factories like Google, Facebook and the cheap labor lobby. California’s population has grown by 10 million (33%!) in the last quarter century, fueled by third world immigration. When did Californians vote for that?

  3. I don’t cross the bridges and pay the tolls often. So I don’t have a dog in this fight. But you’re a fool to ever believe any of these transportation measures will result in success. There is no history of these projects reducing traffic. I always vote NO on things like this.

  4. Your spot on about the Dumbarton rail trestle. People have been talking about reopening that rail line for 30 years, but nothing happens. There was money set aside for Dumbarton, but it was stolen by the BART to SJ project. Our local officials looked the other way when the money was taken. If they’re promising to reopen it now, that’s just B.S.

  5. The projects this measure will fund were decided in smoke filled rooms in Sacramento, so study was done to determine where the need was greatest. I’m voting no.

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