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San Francisco to Impose “Sailing Toll” for People Driving to Boats; Funds Will Subsidize Luxury Bay Ferries

In yet another attempt to both alleviate the Bay Area’s worsening traffic congestion and bolster public-transit alternatives, the City of San Francisco is considering imposing what is being called a “non-essential-driving toll” that would include all manner of recreational activity — including people driving to go sailing. A copy of the proposal, which was obtained by Latitude 38, outlined the overarching philosophy of the plan, offered some details as to how the toll might be assessed and collected, and described a vision for expanded ferry service.

“We cannot ignore the fact that gridlocked traffic continues to worsen, and that strong measures are required to discourage driving,” the proposal read. In discouraging non-work-related trips, which were also classified as “luxury commuting,” the City of San Francisco’s Group on Traffic Congestion and Highway Authority said it can also shore up funds to increase non-road-based commuting infrastructures.

“Fees can be collected by tracking FasTrak toll tags, via GPS and other technology, to monitor driving,” the proposal read, detailing plans that would require drivers to list their work-related destinations, which would be considered essential. All nonessential or non-work-related driving would be “tollable” miles.

The “boundaries” of “tollable” miles, as laid out in a proposal from the City of San Francisco, which was obtained by Latitude 38.
© 2022 Google Maps

Perhaps the most ominous portent of the proposal was this passage toward the end of the document: “Other municipalities throughout the Bay Area have shown interest in this pilot plan, and are likely to impose some version of punitive measures on nonessential driving as populations increase, and some 50,000 cars are added to the road each year.”

The proposal said that ferry service was the most likely candidate to receive toll funds, and laid out an ambitious plan for a fleet of high-speed, high-volume ferries that would service the heart of the Bay Area’s shores. In describing the planned ferries, the proposal painted an opulent picture of what the vessels might entail, including full-service bars and grills; televisions playing sports, news, and CNN and Fox; high-end reclinable seats; massage therapists on staff (not included in the ticket price); and occasional live entertainment.

(To be fair, it sounds awesome.)

“Ferries are the most expensive form of transportation and require enormous public subsidies,” the proposal said, displaying a candor not often seen in government documents. “Even though there is an inherent romance associated with commuting on the water, there is an obvious need to further lure people with amenities to ensure sufficient ridership, and to justify the hefty investment in this particular public-transportation sector.”

This is true: The Bay Area Council, a public-policy organization, traveled to the United Kingdom to consider the viability of hovercraft ferries. “It’s a lot like riding on a ferry boat, but there’s less of that up and down kind of stuff. It’s a little bit more of a jiggle, but it’s a very similar experience,” the Council’s Chief Operating Officer said. No word, yet, on whether the hovercraft will drive down Bay Area streets to offer “door-to-door service.”
© 2022

For years, public-ferry services have discussed plans for low-emission vessels. At present, ferries operate with “Tier 4” engines, which are the cleanest diesel engines in operation, but are perhaps analogous to low-tar cigarettes: There’s less tar, but you’re still literally smoking tar.

We also expect tolls in various forms, including bridge tolls — which ticked up another dollar on January 1 — to continue to rise, while the services they are meant to fund will continue to stagnate and be embroiled in lengthy debate. In other words, we expect to pay more for nothing, at least for the foreseeable future.

Interstate 80, seen here looking south from Berkeley toward Emeryville (with the heavily recreated-upon waters of Berkeley’s South Basin to the right), is one of the worst traffic chokepoints in the Bay Area. According to a toll proposal from the City of San Francisco’s Group on Traffic Congestion and Highway Authority (GOTCHA) obtained by Latitude 38, anyone who drives to the shoreline, and then says variations of, “The wind is free, and you can have so much fun with it!” would likely be opening themselves up to a toll. Anyone who takes a selfie on the Bay with the caption, “Just another day at the office,” would obviously be tollable. Anyone who tells you that they’re “so stoked” in the aftermath of a “sick session” would also probably be subject to the “nonessential-driving fee.”
© 2022 Wikipedia

We can only imagine that “monitored driving” and the relatively subjective application of behavior-based fees will, justifiably, stoke the ire of privacy advocates, and clearly we are headed for protracted, taxpayer-funded litigation to trudge through these issues and, in all likelihood, arrive at the same stalemate from which policy makers originally embarked.

April Fools!


  1. Pat Broderick 2 years ago

    As an old, retired guy I just changed the boat’s name to “Hospice.” I think that might qualify for a non-essential-driving toll break?

  2. Bill 2 years ago

    Good April 1st story, unfortunately I’m afraid it is probably more a prediction than a joke.

  3. Mary P 2 years ago

    As an old, not yet retired woman who is also disabled and has a sailboat, this sucks…Public transportation is not disabled friendly, no matter what they say. Nor does it go to marinas, nor is it a good method of transportation if carrying gear and fuel cans.

    • Amy Rose 2 years ago

      Check today’s date and read to the end.

  4. shel hamblin 2 years ago

    another sf government non-thought-out punishment that they will not have to endure, simply because the politicians never suffer the atrocities they inflict on the ones they ‘serve’.

  5. Rich Brazil 2 years ago

    April Fools!!

  6. Bernard M. Portet 2 years ago

    That is a great joke but not unlike San Fancisco way of thinking!

  7. Candy 2 years ago

    How about digging up the old story of “floating Alcatraz” by Robert Perry? That was another great gotcha April Fool joke.

  8. Jeff Hoffman 2 years ago

    OMG! I was about to write an anger-filled rant until I saw the April Fools! exclamation at the bottom. Good one! You obviously know how to push the right buttons.

  9. Jim Norman 2 years ago

    Good one, but don’t give the bureaucrats and politicians any more bad ideas, they come up with enough of them all on their own.

    • Daniel Irwin 2 years ago

      Exactly…I can see this really happening now that the idea has been “Proposed”.

      After all the ability to own a sailboat and sail is an “equity” issue. That is, shouldn’t the government subsidize the downtrodden and provide boats slips and special transportation to and from? How about provisions for a day on the water? It’s just not fair that some people can afford this sort of thing while the homeless cannot.

  10. Leslie 2 years ago

    You got my blood pressure up on that one! Good job!

  11. JJ 2 years ago

    Time to reread 1984 by George .Orwell.
    Might want to read March 9 Executive Order. No number Yet.
    It may be April 1st, but the idea is no joke. The clock is ticking.
    Send us your money and we will let you have back what we think you need.

  12. Calvin 2 years ago

    Stupid fucking idea and the idiots making these decisions wonder why people have had enough of this stupid shit.

    • Tim Henry 2 years ago

      Calvin — It’s an April Fools joke.

  13. Dave 2 years ago

    For JJ and all . . . reread Animal Farm . . . also by Orwell . . . oh yes, and “The Fourth Turning: An American prophesy” by Howe and Strauss

  14. Conchscooter 2 years ago

    I was going to say its a shame you spoiled a great story with an April Fool’s tag until I saw the irate comments from people who still didn’t get it! This was excellent.

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