New York Times: Golden Gate Bridge looking for handouts

Dean Murphy reports on the tough financial straits the Golden Gate Bridge district finds itself in. To try to help make up a huge financial deficit facing the district, the bridge district has decided to install donation booths to try to solicit contributions from tourists walking across the bridge.

With fewer cars crossing the bridge, ridership down on buses and ferries, and security and insurance bills mounting, the district faces a $296 million deficit over the next five years. The projected shortfall had been $441 million, but was lowered after the toll increase in September. The expenses include $700,000 a year for 11 new security employees. Insurance premiums jumped to $1.2 million, about double the amount of last year.

The district raised the toll for most motorists to $5 from $3, the first increase in 11 years. Though the toll remains lower than some in other parts of the country, it is more than double the amount charged at the Bay Area’s seven state-run bridges. Reaction was swift and negative, with motorists complaining in public hearings, in e-mail messages to the board and on radio talk shows.

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