A popular Facebook post has been turning heads claiming that the social media juggernaut is working with Google to lobby for a $3 toll increase on Bay Area bridges.
While the tech titans aren’t directly involved, they are among a coalition of Bay Area companies lobbying for the increase.
The increase would raise tolls on the seven state-owned Bay Area bridges from anywhere between $1-$3 if approved by voters. This could result in toll prices reaching as high as $9 for the Bay Bridge, where tolls currently peak at $6 during high-traffic times.
The increase is expected to raise approximately $125 million, according to the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, which would be used for various projects intended to ease congestion.
The Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the Bay Area Council, associations which list Facebook and Google among their membership, have been among the groups involved in the discussions.
We spoke with Randy Rentschler, the Director of Legislation and Public Affairs for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the government agency responsible for planning and financing transportation in the Bay Area.
Rentschler confirmed that the business groups have been involved in the discussions, noting that employee retention is complicated for Silicon Valley companies because of traffic congestion in the Bay Area.
“Major employers here are having a hard time hanging on to people because of what it takes to get to work everyday.” Rentschler said.
Bay Area Council spokesman Rufus Jeffris said that while the group has been lobbying for the increase, social media posts singling out Google and Facebook are missing important context.
“Google and Facebook are no more in front of this than any other company,” said Jeffris. “Any big employer in the Bay Area whose employees have to slog through lengthy commutes has interest in improvements.”
Jeffris noted that the worsening Bay Area traffic impacts an employer’s ability to attract workers -- and also the employee’s productivity.
“When workers are on the road for an hour to an hour and a half each way, it cuts into productivity,” Jeffris said.
Ultimately, however, the decision rests with the voters.
Jeffris noted that while no one likes heavy fees, a poll commissioned by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the Bay Area Council found that a majority of voters would support the increase, as a whopping 85 percent feel that traffic in the area has gotten worse in recent years.
The proposal could be on ballots in time for the June primary elections.
Randy Rentschler, the Director of Legislation and Public Affairs for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission
Rufus Jeffris, Vice President of Communications, Bay Area Council
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