The bane of drivers everywhere, the toll-taker, notably went missing from from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge on March 27, 2013. Not the tolls themselves, just those human beings who had previously greeted motorists with smiling faces on and official hands out. On that morning, officials threw the switch on a new electronic system of collecting tolls. This is the future; this is progress.
Empty toll booths were joined by a new 27-foot LED sign instructing motorists to keep on moving as the Golden Gate Bridge became the only span in California and one of the few in the world to convert to all-electronic tolls.
Now motorists go online to register license plates and credit card information with the bridge district and pay tolls as they are incurred. Those who don’t have online accounts have about 48 hours after they cross the bridge to pay the toll at one of the payment kiosks located along thoroughfares leading to and from the Golden Gate. Those who don’t pay up receive invoices, because Big Brother knows who they are.
The bridge has been a San Francisco icon since it was opened in 1937. Before that the only practical short route between San Francisco and what is now Marin County was by a half-hour boat trip across San Francisco Bay. During the bridge-opening celebration, before vehicle traffic was allowed, 200,000 people crossed the bridge on foot and roller skate.
In addition to being a major tourist attraction, the bridge is the world’s most popular suicide spot. An official suicide count is kept, sorted according to which of the bridge’s 128 lampposts the jumper was nearest when he or she jumped. (Lamppost #19 is particularly recommended.) By 2015, the suicide count had exceeded 1,400, and new suicides were occurring as fast as one could say ‘Goodbye, cruel world.’ But savvy officials came up with a plan to thwart would-be jumpers: a $76 million steel net that will capture them like hapless butterflies. There they will remain trapped until “help” arrives in the form of jump toll collectors.