This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.
Writing in Crosscut, Daniel Jack Chasan makes a good argument:
Why not do congestion pricing here? There’s no good reason, but if you want to make congestion pricing work, you have to do more than bar-code everybody’s car and send out bills. First, you have to give people alternative means of transportation. London didn’t just make people pay to drive downtown. The city bought 300 new buses and froze transit fares in advance. (In contrast, Sims’ proposed 2008 budget would raise bus fares by 25 cents a ticket. A quarter isn’t much, but it represents a stiff 16-2/3 percent increase for people who ride the bus during rush hour, and a doubling of the fare for elderly riders.)
Besides, working class people already rode public transportation in London. And downtown London retailers didn’t really have to worry about shoppers just driving to the malls instead. None of the above holds true for Seattle. Make it harder to drive downtown and a lot of shoppers will just head for the malls. You can’t just throw a cordon of congestion pricing around downtown Seattle. You’d have to cordon off the major alternatives, too.
I think some sort of tolling for road use is inevitable, whether it’s Sightline’s innovative pay-as-you-drive idea or RFID transponders or congestion pricing or good old fashioned tollbooths. Plus, the gas tax is becoming a less reilable revenue stream.
But first it’s important that we get going ASAP on transit alternatives, so that people have a reason to switch from SOV use.