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SF State study shows Bay Area slow to adopt FasTrak



William Morris
SF State Office of Public Affairs & Publications
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Press Release published by the Office of Public Affairs & Publications


Consistent, sustained discounts would improve the program authors say

SAN FRANCISCO, February 26, 2007 -- A study by San Francisco State University College of Business faculty finds that FasTrak usage on state-owned bridges in the San Francisco Bay Area is 30 percent lower at peak traffic periods than that of other toll bridges in the United States.

Although the authors offer several suggestions for how to better market the FasTrak program, the study suggests that a consistent discount appears to be the largest single factor in leading to successful adoption of electronic toll collection (ETC) programs.

The study, published earlier this month in the winter edition of Transportation Journal, was authored by Sanjit Sengupta, professor of marketing; Ramesh Bollapragada, assistant professor of decision sciences; and MBA graduate Hector Bedolla.

Comparison data collected for the study shows that Golden Gate Bridge and ETC systems in New York, New Jersey and Illinois all experience ETC levels of around 70 percent compared to the 40 percent for the Bay Area bridges. These systems all offer discounts from 11 to 50 percent over cash-based tolls; whereas, the state-owned Bay Area bridges have not offered a consistent FasTrak discount.

Sengupta, a FasTrak user who commutes to the SF State campus from Walnut Creek, acknowledges that the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and Bay Area Transit Authority (BATA), which manage the program, have made some attempts to jumpstart FasTrak adoption. The BATA offered a discount for January after bridge tolls were increased Jan. 1 and is making passes available for sale at Costco and Safeway. However, he believes that it isn't enough.

"Temporary discounts do result in spikes in FasTrak adoption. But only a small section of the population is aware and takes advantage of such promotions. To change the behavior of large numbers of drivers across the entire Bay Area will require sustained application of economic incentives. A permanent discount will help even more people embrace FasTrak," he said.

Sengupta says ongoing discounts could pay for themselves. If FasTrak usage increases, he said, there would be savings from the reduction in toll collectors needed, and the time savings for commuters and reductions in air pollution and fuel consumption outweigh the costs.

Other suggestions to increase adoptions rates include:

  • Adding FasTrak-only lanes and toll booths gradually when the current number of dedicated FasTrak lanes reach their capacity.
  • Extending FasTrak-only lanes at the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge further back in to the "maze" during the work week so that time savings for FasTrak users increases.
  • Decrease the number of FasTrak-only lanes during the weekend when more cash-paying motorists are using the bridges.
  • Increase the number of retail outlets where FasTrak is available, including public transportation agencies such as BART, Muni, SamTrans and AC Transit.
  • Promote FasTrak more aggressively, including training toll collectors to promote the program and offering them incentives to do so.

The research data for the paper was collected by Bedolla for his MBA thesis. He graduated in May 2006.

Accredited by the prestigious Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, SF State's College of Business enrolls nearly 4,200 undergraduate and 715 graduate students. Each year the College of Business awards more business degrees than Stanford, University of California, Berkeley and University of San Francisco combined. All of its full-time faculty members hold doctoral degrees, and most have experience with commercial enterprises and engage in applied business research.


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Last modified February 26, 2007, by the Office of Public Affairs & Publications