Critical vote for congestion pricing 

A controversial plan to charge drivers a fee for entering portions of San Francisco has reached a fork in the road: whether to drive ahead or curb the plan.

Based on models in London and Stockholm, city planners are considering a driver toll to help decrease traffic congestion and raise funds for transit and infrastructure projects. While several different proposals are in the works, the one with the most support would charge motorists a $3 fee for entering The City’s northeast cordon, an area that stretches as far north as Fisherman’s Wharf, south to the Mission district, and west to lower Pacific Heights.

Congestion pricing would generate $60 million to $80 million in annual revenue that would be invested in transportation programs, according to the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, the city agency in charge of the study. The program would also help reduce traffic by about 12 percent and speed up transit vehicles by 20 to 25 percent.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors, acting in its role as board of directors of the SFCTA, will vote on whether to extend the study into congestion pricing, or to shelve the idea indefinitely.

Dave Snyder, spokesman for the San Francisco Transit Riders Union, said his group is enthusiastic about the SFCTA moving further with the study. Although Snyder said the union still needs more information before offering a full endorsement on congestion pricing, any project that speeds up transit and provides transportation funding is a good idea.

The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce has consistently opposed any plans to charge motorists for entering downtown San Francisco. Jim Lazarus, public policy director for the Chamber, said congestion pricing in downtown San Francisco would drive potential visitors to other cities in the Bay Area.

“It’s already expensive enough here,” Lazarus said. “The last thing we need to do is make it costlier for people who want to visit their doctor, go shopping, see a cultural event or anything else that would bring them to San Francisco.”

If the Board of Supervisors approves the study, the SFCTA will continue to develop their ideas for congestion pricing. The agency projects to have a final design on the plan finished by 2014. The implementation date would come in 2015, according to agency documents.

One outstanding question about the congestion pricing plan is whether it would need voter approval. Californians in November approved Proposition 26, which mandated that fees now be treated as taxes. If the proposition is found to be applicable to the program, then two-thirds of San Francisco voters would have to give their approval for implementation.

 

Plans for payment

There are three options on the table for how to charge drivers in so-called congestion pricing, which would implement a fee for vehicles entering parts of San Francisco.

Study 1*

  • Charge drivers $3 for entering and leaving the northeast cordon during morning and evening peak hours

Study 2

  • Charge $6 for outbound drivers leaving the northeast cordon during evening peak hours

Study 3*

  • Charge motorists $3 for entering and leaving points along the southern gateway between San Mateo and San Francisco counties

* Options 1 and 3 have a $6 daily max

Source: SFCTA

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Will Reisman

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