SAN FRANCISCO -- Motorists greeted the first morning in nearly 76 years without human toll collectors on the Golden Gate Bridge on Wednesday by embracing the change -- or being confused by it.
Many motorists zipped through the toll plaza -- often at speeds well above the posted speed limit of 25 mph -- which in turn erased congestion on the iconic span.
But other motorists still stopped at the vacant toll plaza, including one man in a silver Lexus who got out of his vehicle searching for someone to give money to.
"What a dodo," said a bridge worker, after she walked over to the toll lane where the man had stopped and told him to get going.
Nobody expected that the bridge's conversion to automatic tolls would go without a hitch. The Golden Gate Bridge is the first major span in the nation to make such a change, which is being closely watched around the Bay Area and the world as a possible example to follow.
Bridge officials were mostly pleased with the system's debut Wednesday.
"It's going really, really well," said Mary Currie, spokeswoman for the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District.
No major problems, such as crashes, were reported as of noon. That period covered the morning commute, in which an estimated 86 percent of motorists use FasTrak and thus already are accustomed to not stopping to pay their fares.
"These are the people we expected to be on their best behavior, and they are," said Kary Witt, a Windsor resident and manager of the bridge for the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District.
By late morning, the confusion was more apparent.
One woman stopped at the toll plaza and rolled down her window to ask whether she was in the span's only dedicated carpool toll lane. She wasn't.
Another man who was traveling alone was. The toll lane is for carpools of three or more people.
Motorists who came to a full stop at the plaza were encouraged along by others honking their horns or by a loudspeaker employed by the bridge's security staff.
"Black Mercedes. Don't back up. Keep going. You will get a bill in the mail," was a typical exhortation.
Other motorists attempted to weave into other lanes at the last minute, apparently thinking that there are still some lanes reserved for FasTrak users. There aren't.
Electronic signs along Highway 101 stating that cash is no longer accepted on the bridge did not always help clarify the changes. Some motorists who pulled over after going through the toll plaza said they thought that meant they could still pay at the bridge using credit or debit cards.
Currie said the the district considered tweaking the signs, but elected not to because it could take months to get CalTrans approval to do so.
Numerous signs also have been installed at the toll plaza, including a 27-foot LED sign atop the structure, to encourage motorists to keep moving. The curved windows of the toll booths where humans collected fares have been darkened and arrows attached to point the way.
Some motorists caught on too well and blew through the toll plaza at speeds of 60 mph, according to the CHP.
The CHP beefed up its presence on the bridge as the morning wore on. But officers held off issuing tickets because people are still learning the new rules of the road, said Officer Andrew Barclay