San Francisco officials consider $5 toll on famous road

SAN FRANCISCO -- It's one of San Francisco's landmark attractions: Lombard Street. The windy road can attract up to 20,000 visitors on a busy day. Drivers can wait up to 45 minutes just to make it to the top of the road for the drive down.

For years, the people who live on the crooked part of the street have complained about the growing hordes of tourists and cars.

The city has tried to help. Five years ago, cars were banned on some Saturdays during the summer.

Now, there is a new solution being discussed. It involves turning that part of Lombard into a toll road, one that even needs a reservation to use.

California State Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) is introducing legislation AB 1605. It is designed to reduce traffic through the four-block area, making it easier for people who live in the neighborhood.

"(We) want to make sure this neighborhood is livable for the people who do live around here," says Ting.

Here is what's being proposed: Drivers would make a reservation online with the day and time they want to visit. They would also input their license plate information. In addition, they will be charged a $5 fee to drive on Lombard Street.

When pre-registered vehicles enter Lombard Street, an automated camera would read the license plate and check it against the database.

Drivers who attempt to use road without a reservation would be charged a higher fee. The invoice will be sent to the registered owner. These rules would not apply to people who live on the street.

Greg Brundage has lived on Lombard for more than 20 years and is president of the Lombard Hill Improvement Association. He says something has to be done to deal with the massive growth of tourists - especially over the past 10 years.

"I moved here 22 years ago, and it was nothing like this then," says Brundage. "Selfies! Oh my gosh! That in and of itself is an issue!"

San Francisco Supervisor Catherine Stefani says the city has tried for years to fix the problem through a variety of measures, such as changing the flow of traffic, new signage and traffic monitors. But, she says, it hasn't worked.

"We're unable to properly manage the crowds with the growth of visitors," explains Stefani.

Yogaraj Kuppuswary, is a tourist visiting from New York with his family. He says he would pay to drive the road. "With tolls (on Bay Area bridges), you are paying more than this. This is something historic, so why not," he says.

But Adri Filho, who is visiting with his friends from Brazil, doesn't like the idea. He says tourists shouldn't be paying for the city's problems.

"I think this is a tourist thing, so we should not pay for it. We are here to appreciate it. And enjoy out time here," says Filho.

The bill, which as the support of the San Francisco Transportation Authority, will be considered by the Assembly Transportation Committee.

Ting says AB 1605 is necessary because current laws prohibit any local agency from charging drivers a fee or tax to use roads or highways. This bill gives the city and county the green light to implement the program.

But even if approved by the state legislature and signed into law, it could be up to a year before it goes into effect.