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Golden Gate Bridge dropping human toll takers in early 2013
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Drivers using San Francisco's historic Golden Gate Bridge will finally see the anticipated change from human toll-takers to an all-electronic toll system in early 2013, officials said.

The system will switch to electronic tolling in February instead of this month as previously announced, Bridge spokeswoman Mary Currie said Tuesday.

"It's where the industry is going, the technology is here; it's workable and doable. We anticipate seeing improvements in flow of traffic during our peak period of congestion," Currie told the Marin Independent Journal ( ).

More than two-thirds of drivers using the bridge will continue to pay tolls using FasTrak, the current system that automatically tallies tolls based on a device placed in vehicles, Currie said.

Drivers will also be able to pay through a pay-by-plate account where toll-lane cameras would record license plate numbers and charge credit or debit cards each time they cross. Drivers can pay online or at special pay stations located along the Highway 101 corridor.

Earlier this year, the Bridge's board of directors voted to replace the span's 32 toll-takers with electronic tolling to help close a $66 million budget shortfall over the next five years.

Twelve of the toll-takers have already either retired, taken other jobs within the bridge district or left. Another 20 likely stand to lose their jobs, although seven have expressed interest in driving district buses.

Bridge officials expect some problems early on with the new system, particularly with visitors and tourists unfamiliar with the tolling structure. Officials had considered keeping at least one of the 11 toll booths open for cash-only transactions, but eventually decided against it.

"Confusion could abound," Currie told KCBS Radio on Tuesday.

The new electronic toll system comes as San Francisco celebrated the Golden Gate Bridge's 75th anniversary this spring. It will cost about $3.2 million to get the new electronic system up and running, officials said.