Bill Introduced to Allow California Cities to Pursue Congestion Pricing

Four cities could charge tolls for drivers to enter congested parts of their cities if an assembly bill introduced by Richard Bloom last month becomes law.

March 14, 2018, 8:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

Car Traffic

oleschwander / Shutterstock

Legislation introduced by Assemblymember Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica would allow two northern and two southern California cities to pursue cordon area congestion pricing demonstration pilot projects, somewhat similar to the Fix NYC plan under consideration by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y), which would charge drivers an $11.52 toll to drive below 60th Street in Manhattan.

"The concept has been pitched for San Francisco before and has often met fiery opposition," writes the San Francisco Examiner's transportation reporter, Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, on March 11. "But at least one city lawmaker said that if the state bill passes, he will introduce legislation implementing it in The City."

Planetizen dates efforts by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority to implement city congestion pricing back to at least November 2010. The authority's Mobility, Access and Pricing Study ran into opposition from the city's southern neighbor, San Mateo County, which threatened a "border toll war," and we haven't heard anything since.

However, it appears that Bloom's legislation, AB 3059: Congestion pricing demonstration pilot projects, co-authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), originates from the 100 Hours Campaign, a public engagement effort by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) to reduce traffic congestion in Los Angeles. One of the proposed strategies, according to a post last September, a "decongestion fee system:"

By charging a fee to enter and use the streets within a highly-congested area at peak periods, drivers would be incentivized to make more informed travel choices and explore mobility alternatives.

In fact, the 100 Hours plan uses the term, "Go Zones" (see a supportive op-ed by Natural Resources Defense Council), which also appears in Bloom's legislation, notes Rodriguez:

The bill would remove legal barriers at the state level and allow local jurisdictions to pass their own congestion pricing pilot programs, called “Go Zones"

Rodriguez adds that San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin is ready to sponsor an ordinance to authorize a Go Zone.

“I’ve long been a proponent of congestion pricing as a way to change driving behavior and reduce traffic,” said Peskin, who also serves as board chair on the San Francisco County Transportation Authority.

Transportation advocates, like the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, expressed support for such a plan, but business groups, like the Union Square Business Improvement District, were hesitant. However, AB 3059 first needs to pass the legislature and be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown before it gets to the municipal level. Its first committee hearing is scheduled for March 19.

Hat tip to John Holtzclaw and Matt Williams.

Sunday, March 11, 2018 in San Francisco Examiner

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