AdviceFinanceSan FranciscoShopping, Style and BeautySlider

Robots are Messing with My Money on The Golden Gate Bridge

The Bay's best newsletter for underground events & news


Perhaps you’ve already experienced the new Fastrak-only agenda while crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. Perhaps you haven’t. Either way, I feel it’s important to discuss the ramifications of this new non-option when crossing the bridge, even if it’s for no other reason than to warn you that it’s a huge hassle and it sucks and it will end up costing you more and that robots are taking all of our jobs.

I’ll explain.

I was driving back from Easter Brunch with my girlfriend and her family in Sonoma. Wait, let me rephrase that. My girlfriend was driving me back from an Easter Brunch in Sonoma because she let me get drunk at said function as a bartering tool to get me to go. What’s funny is, I love her family and I knew the food was going to be top-notch so I would have gone anyhow. However, I kept my poker face and solemnly agreed, accepting her gratitude for my concession. Yeah, it’s all just one big chessboard. Huzzah to relationships!

An empty toll booth is seen at the Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza in San Francisco, California

Anyhow, we were headed back and, as we approached the toll plaza, I sensed something was amiss. There were no cash options, and the booths were rapidly approaching. Upon closer inspection I saw that that cash was no longer considered legal tender and although I reflected on its momentary convenience, my gut told me that this was going to end up being one big hassle–for a host of reasons. And it was.

We breezed through like we owned the place. Ironically, SF is a pretty cash-forward town, so off the bat it seemed fishy that they no longer want you paying in greenbacks at the tollbooth. I actually kind of liked it. It made me feel like I was greasing the doorman or something, slipping past the crowd with a lady on my arm. Now you just zoom by a flash of light. Where there was once a friendly “hello” to the gatekeeper of our fair city, there is now a rapid interaction with a robot. And I doubt those people were given new jobs. The machines ate them and spit them out–and left me holding the bag.

How, you ask? Well, a few weeks later I received a letter from the Fastrak folks instructing me to send them six bucks. Like any god-fearing 30 year old in America, I promptly lost this notice, shoving it somewhere in my “filing pile”. It was like quicksilver, moving swiftly from my hands into the ether. It didn’t stand a chance. Of course, a month passed and I got a second notice, informing me that I’ve incurred a penalty of $25.00. Now, I owed these people $31.00 and navigating the payment website was as enigmatic as it was fruitless. I ended up paying by phone (to a computerized voice). What the fuck? I would have gladly paid in the first place and now they’re strong arming me! Is there any Balm in Gilead?


Of course, they suggest that you simply get the Fastrak and they will exonerate your debt. This brings me to the third reason why I hated this soulless transition. And yes, I know this really paints me out to be some hipster Larry David, so before you say it—stop.

Whenever you are crossing the bridge with your buddies, it’s customary to piece up as a car to pay the bridge toll, correct? I always do it as a passenger and I accept the donation as a driver with tacit approval. However, when there’s a Fastrak glued to the windshield, everyone just assumes that it’s “taken care of”. You can’t really ask people to fork over some dough if they don’t see the actual transaction take place. It’s like you have this bar tab that everyone assumes is on the company card. That’s actually a funny comparison for me to make because I’m in the public sector and I’ve never worked for an actual “company”. In fact, “The Company Card” is something I’ve actually lumped into the mythos I’ve created about “The Private Sector”. Hmm. Maybe that’s why I’m taking the time to bitch about paying a bridge toll. Regardless, this new Fastrak thing really grinds my gears.


It also begs the question: What will be automated next? So far, all of these “conveniences” have proven to be more of a hassle. Case in point: Safeway. I hate the self-checkout thing. No one knows what they’re doing and it takes infinitely longer than just having someone ring the food up for you. The airport check-in kiosk confuses me too, and, if you have to check a bag, you end up waiting in a second line anyhow. Furthermore, why am I being forced to disrobe at the security checkpoint if they don’t even have the decency to look me in the eye as I print out my obnoxiously overpriced ticket? The robots are taking over, and it’s making my life more awkward and cumbersome than it already was. Don’t even get me started about the camera that busts you running a red. If you’re going to make me shell out that kind of dough, at least pull me over and give me a clichéd Cool Hand Luke-y interaction about “your driving, son”.

And Siri is a fucking airhead.

So that’s my two cents on bridge-crossing, getting groceries, air travel, reckless driving, the private sector, a barter economy in relationships, splitting costs, my iphone, and robots. Ultimately, I’ve solved nothing, and I still didn’t order the Fastrak (out of principle).

Maybe I’ll just start taking the Richmond Bridge instead. It’s robot-free—for now.

Photo Credits: Isabel Angell (WNYC), Michael Cabanatuan (SFgate), Stephen Lam (Rueters),John Thorp (TheFilmFool)

Previous post

Whiz Burger - Where You Go for WAY More Than a Burger

Next post

Cosecha Cafe: Decent Food For Fancy-Ass Prices

Stephen Jackson - In Therapy

Stephen Jackson - In Therapy

For the most part, Stephen wanders around looking for people to talk to. Born in Manhattan and raised in Santa Monica, he's been cultivating the skill of living large on a dime since he began hoarding his juice boxes in preschool. Currently, the majority of his time is spent raising a dog and feigning wealth.