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Golden Gate Bridge tollbooths to go all-electronic in 2012

The Golden Gate Bridge will begin collecting all tolls electronically in 2012. Are Bay Area residents ready to step toward a cashless society?

Bay Area residents just took another step toward the cashless society utopia.

In a move to save $19.2 million over 10 years, officials have approved a plan stipulating that the Golden Gate Bridge will begin collecting all tolls electronically in 2012.

Tollbooths have been manned by human collectors since the bridge opened in 1937, but the FasTrack system will soon force cash-toting drivers to stop off at a convenience store or gas station to load funds into an account linked to either an electronic transponder or their license plate.

Michael Cabanatuan reports in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Tim Paulson, executive director of the San Francisco Labor Council, criticized the loss of not only individual jobs, but of a type and level of work that allowed people without college degrees to make decent livings. Toll collectors at the bridge make an average of $27 an hour, according to the district.

"It's very disturbing to see the elimination of an entire job class for the sake of efficiency," he said. "We're really disappointed to see the elimination of an entire class of workers."

A few points about the situation:

  • The booths will remain as a speed deterrent.
  • Fifteen percent of Bay Area residents are cash-dependent.
  • Drivers who do nothing will have the bill mailed to them.

The friction on the issue stems from the classic scenario where efficiencies enabled by technology are replacing old systems.

The question: are we ready to go cashless? (And what do privacy advocates have to say about this? )

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com