Friday, February 15, 2019

Congestion pricing: Bad idea whose time still hasn't come

Congestion pricing in San Francisco has long been the dream of the Bicycle Coalition, Tilly Chang, and the city's anti-car movement. 

It would be a two-fer for that movement and City Hall: punish people for driving those wicked motor vehicles here in Progressive Land and, more important, it would be a significant source of revenue for an already bloated city bureaucracy.

The SF Chronicle often does its part to promote anti-carism in the city. Its latest contribution is a crudely biased story on congestion pricing yesterday:

San Francisco officials are contemplating tolls to drive along busy arteries downtown, where traffic crawls so slowly that cars spend much of the journey sitting. The county Transportation Authority board — also known as the Board of Supervisors — set aside $500,000 this week to study the idea and gather data on who drives downtown during rush hour and why.

The Board of Supervisors is not the same as the SFCTA, though it is its governing body. The SFCTA is a separate department with its own staff:

Officials haven’t quite nailed down their definition of “downtown,” which would probably include the SoMa and Financial District neighborhoods that link to the Bay Bridge. This eastern swath is among four areas in the city that could become testing grounds for pricing interventions.

Not "quite nailed down" is the understatement of the young year! The graphic above is of a widely scorned SFCTA proposal from 2010:

..And then there’s the possibility of tolled express lanes along Interstate 280 and Highway 101, connecting San Francisco to San Mateo county.

San Mateo County might have something to say about that! Besides, these are state and national highways. Seems unlikely that San Francisco will get a green light to use them to raise money to support its huge payroll.

The Chronicle story then devotes several paragraphs to predictable opinions from a spokesman for Transform without noting that, like the Bicycle Coalition and Walk SF, it's essentially an anti-car organization that has always supported congestion pricing.

The problem the anti-car movement has in implementing congestion pricing in the city: people who live in the city hate the idea:

Though the concept is catching on nationally, new fares tend to get residents riled up in San Francisco, and a recent Chamber of Commerce poll showed that respondents have little appetite for the added expense: 30 percent of people surveyed supported the idea of a $3 toll to drive into the northeastern part of the city; 65 percent said no, and the rest were undecided.

It's not just "a recent" Chamber of Commerce poll. I write about the Chamber's poll every year---beginning ten years ago---and those polls consistently show that city residents really don't like the idea of paying a fee to drive downtown in their own city (The only time it didn't poll poorly: when the question about congestion pricing wasn't asked).

Supervisor Mandelman's comments:

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman mentioned those results at the transportation board meeting Tuesday. “There is inherently concern and doubt about this approach (of) charging to use our roads,” he said. But, he added, “Our tools for dealing with the proliferation of Uber and Lyft are limited. One of the tools we have left is congestion pricing.” Cohen expects support to grow if officials add the toll and it shaves half an hour off every car trip through SoMa. “People can’t even conceive of a downtown where traffic flows,” he said.

Okay, no one except Uber and Lyft would object to making them pay for making congestion worse downtown. 

But what about everyone else? What would be the impact on downtown businesses if the fee was more widely imposed?

The only semi-dissent in the story is from Supervisor Fewer:

“I don’t really dig it, it’s not my deal,” Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer said of congestion pricing. She voted to fund the study anyway.

Since Fewer represents District One, she will never have to "dig it," but apparently she thinks it might be a cool "deal" for someone else's district!

Note that City Hall is also having second thoughts about its proposed toll on residents of Treasure Island.

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At 9:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All part of their climate change bs.

If your interested in the list of things to do check out the link. The list that California/San Francisco follow.

At 9:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At 2:57 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, I got your link the first time. No, this is not about the UN. It's about San Francisco's dumb traffic policy.


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