The Golden Gate Bridge is iconic, not just to us who live here in Northern California, but the world around. And early next year, the landmark will become the first bridge in California to eliminate human toll takers and switch to an all-electronic format.

It’s where the industry is going, the technology is here, it’s workable and doable,” Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District spokesperson Mary Currie told the Marin Independent Journal. “We anticipate seeing improvements in flow of traffic during our peak period of congestion.

The district, which also manages a fleet of transbay ferries as well as the Golden Gate Transit bus system, is facing a $66 million budget shortfall over the next five years. Moving to all-electronic is an attempt to save funds and get back into the black.

While officials estimate it will cost over $3 million to install the system and get it in working order, the long-term savings are projected at $19 million over the next eight years (primarily in no longer having to pay the salaries and benefits of the 32 toll takers on staff).

Currently, 70 percent of drivers crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on a daily basis use FasTrak, an electronic transponder placed inside each vehicle that tracks when someone crosses the bridge and charges them accordingly.

In addition to FasTrak, a “pay-by-plate” system will be created in which drivers register their license plates and create accounts that will be charged every time cameras see those plates cross the bridge. Payments under this system will also be accepted at retail stores around the Bay Area.

For people without an account with either system, cameras linked to a Department of Motor Vehicles database will mail bills to the homes of individuals who crossed the bridge but haven’t paid. They will have 21 days to pay the toll or be subjected to a $25 fine.

I see all sorts of potential shortcomings with this plan – primarily with the pay-by-plate system for those of us that don’t have the FasTrak transponder in our car. But I won’t speak negative of the non-implemented system just yet. I’ll wait until my family takes our yearly roadtrip to Sausalito.

For more on this story see the full story here, on SFGate.

Image Source | Lisa Bettany