If you’ve ever spent much time in the San Francisco Bay Area, you are probably aware that there are a good number of toll bridges. Those vital links between San Francisco and East Bay, San Francisco and Marin, and the connections across the south of the Bay all require a little cash to cross. But which Bay Area bridges have tolls?
If you’re planning a trip to the Bay Area and need an introduction to the toll bridges and how they work, this post is for you.
Which Bay Area Bridges Have Tolls?
Short answer: all of them. There isn’t a bridge that doesn’t have a toll, unless you want to toss in the Highway 37 Napa River Bridge on the list (it doesn’t have a toll). The major bridges in the Bay Area are:
- Antioch Bridge
- Benicia-Martinez Bridge
- Carquinez (Alfred Zampa Memorial) Bridge
- Dumbarton Bridge
- Richmond-San Rafael Bridge
- San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge
- San Mateo-Hayward Bridge
- Golden Gate Bridge
The toll prices vary by bridge, and they are also dependent on the direction of travel. Every single toll bridge the in the Bay Area only collects that toll in one direction of travel. This is very important to remember, and there is some order to it. San Francisco Bay Area Bridge tolls are collected:
- If you’re traveling into San Francisco or the Peninsula
- If you’re traveling northbound out of East Bay
This is all you have to remember. Into San Francisco, or leaving northward fro East Bay. This will help you remember which Bay Area bridges have tolls in which direction. Here is a handy image as well showing the direction of toll:
Paying Bay Area Bridge Tolls
Now that you know that all Bay Area Bridges have tolls, you might be wondering how you can pay each. Most of the bridges still accept cash (the Golden Gate Bridge is the exception). For the ones that accept cash, you’ll simply need to have it on hand. Cash tolls are generally the same across the region, with every toll charging $6. This is a recent increase from $5, which took effect January 1, 2019.
The Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge are the exceptions. The former costs just over $8 if you pay by plate or if they mail you an invoice. The Bay Bridge varies by day and time. Peak traffic hours (weekdays 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.) costs $7. On weekends the bridge charges $6. During off-peak times on weekdays its only $5.
There is also a FasTrak system that makes it easy to cross any of the Bay Area bridges. You can order a FasTrak toll tag transponder that will let you use the FasTrak lanes. You can order the tag and have it shipped to you, or pick one up at a store in the region. All tolls will be charged to your account. Using the FasTrak system gives you a $1 discount off the Golden Gate Bridge Toll. You should not obtain a FasTrak toll tag for a rental vehicle, as they are paired with a specific license plate.
Paying The Golden Gate Bridge Toll
Paying the Golden Gate Bridge Toll without a FasTrak device has an entirely different system than the other bridges. The Golden Gate Bridge does not accept cash. Your license plate is photographed when you pass over the bridge and an invoice is mailed. Just pay the invoice once you receive it.
However, this system is problematic if you’re driving a rental vehicle. The rental company will receive your invoice, pass it to a payment service, and then you’ll be hit with the amount of the toll plus a $20-30 service fee. Luckily, there is an easy way to pay the Golden Gate Bridge toll to remedy this.
You can either pay your Golden Gate Bridge Toll proactively, or you can pay it once you’ve crossed the bridge. The system is essentially the same however you choose to proceed. Head to the Golden Gate Bridge Toll page on the FasTrak site. If you want to pay in advance, you can submit an authorization form up to 30 days before you cross the bridge. You’ll need to specify the window(s) of time you’ll cross the Golden Gate. If you pass through during the period you’ve authorized, your card will be charged.
Alternatively, you can pay within 48 hours after passing over the bridge. Head to the same page and submit your payment info. It’ll ask for all the same details, such as plate number and state. You must pay within this time, otherwise you’ll likely be invoiced instead.
Tips For Navigating The Bay Area
Getting around the San Francisco Bay Area can be a chore. Between the toll bridges and the traffic, I don’t find driving in the Bay Area all that enjoyable. No where else have I experienced terrible Saturday and Sunday traffic. Do your best to plan your travel as to avoid the worst of the traffic.
Something I’ve run into multiple times is deciding between driving up the peninsula and through San Francisco along 19th Avenue to head home (no toll), or to drive up I880 and I580 through East Bay ($6 Richmond Bridge toll). All but once I’ve opted for the no toll route, even though Google has projected the East Bay route to be ~15 minutes faster. It’s more the hassle of ensuring I have cash that keeps me from it rather than the love of extra traffic.
The best time to get around is midday or late in the evening. The morning rush into the city and afternoon rush out are the most awful. I’ve been stuck in the traffic through the “Novato Narrows” heading north out of the city into Sonoma County more times than I can count. It never gets less frustrating.
While driving in the Bay Area and knowing which Bay Area bridges have tolls is old hat, I still get hung up sometimes and caught without cash. To this day I have not ordered a FasTrak device, as I am in a rental vehicle the vast majority of the time I am crossing the Bay Area bridges. Hopefully this guide has helped you learn how to navigate the Bay Area toll bridges.