The congestion pricing study attempted to apply objective criteria to various options. Regardless of the policy merits, it’s a good bet that the choice will be the one with a political coalition to pass it. Who wins and who loses from such a plan?
For bus riders, pricing is overwhelmingly positive. Fewer cars means buses will be faster, and usually the fee is used to add transit. Perhaps the only downside is more crowded vehicles.
For bicyclists and pedestrians, it’s unclear. The zone would have lower car volumes but higher speeds. But if many people are diverted to bikes, numbers increase safety.
That’s a good chunk of who’s going downtown, but the attitudes of drivers are going to be important. For pricing to work, someone has to be deterred off the road, and those people aren’t going to be happy with the deterrence.
However, there are drivers whose time is literally valuable: they could be earning money instead of being stuck (like taxi drivers), or they face serious penalties for being late, or an employer pays them to sit in traffic. If advocates can show them that congestion pricing is about making their lives easier, rather than just grabbing more money for pet projects, that may be decisive.
Another strategy is to slice the driving community a different way: charging just taxi drivers, as one of the options in the report does. My sense is that most people will be in favor of taxing other people off the streets.
The last possibility is for at least five councilmembers and the Mayor to stick to their principles and bet on doing the right thing. As the study says, most congestion pricing schemes prove to be popular once they’ve been in place for a while. A little courage could put Seattle’s transportation system in a much better place.