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San Francisco considers congestion fee

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

If approved, the plan would become the nation's first congestion pricing scheme. Known as a "cordon toll" or "cordon area" congestion pricing because drivers pay a tax or fee to enter/leave a restricted area, this scheme has already proved successful in London, Stockholm, Rome and Singapore, where it has significantly reduced traffic and air pollution and helped raise millions for new infrastructure projects.

 

The $3 toll would be collected on weekdays between 6 and 9 a.m. and 4 and 7 p.m. - meaning the average car commuter would pay $6 a day in congestion tolls. The fees would be collected using FasTrak transponders and a network of cameras. Motorists would be able to pay via phone, the Internet or retail outlets.


It's believed the toll could eventually raise $35 - $65 million a year. The funds would be used to improve existing transit lines, particularly Muni and BART, and to build new projects -- including new bicycle lanes, a bike-sharing program and more regional transit parking. Taxi drivers, low-income drivers and residents of the toll zone would be offered substantial discounts (up to half off), while drivers who used the bridges would get $1 off their fee. In addition, commercial, rental and car-sharing vehicles would pay a reduced fleet rate.

post #2 of 8

SFGate published this nice little graphic in their article about the plan:

 

 

I think it's a pretty great idea myself, but I use public transit 99% of the time during weekday morning/evening rush hour. 

post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 

I like it because it discourages driving (and hopefully will decrease traffic) while using the funds to improve public transportation, thus encouraging public transport.  Sounds good to me!

post #4 of 8

I am a little mixed about it, but it does encourage public transportation. I am all for that. Of course if you load down your car with 4 other people it would only cost everyone around $0.60 one way.

 

I am just a little mixed because it could hurt people who are already in a financial struggle and public transit may not be a viable option. Overall, I think its a good idea, however.

post #5 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marshal-Green:

 

I am just a little mixed because it could hurt people who are already in a financial struggle and public transit may not be a viable option. Overall, I think its a good idea, however.

 

Yeah, I had some thoughts about the financial stuff too...but let's use my situation for example.  I live outside of that northeast area (top map) but Huddler HQ is inside the area.  I would get charged to drive to and from work (assuming I traveled between 6-9am and 4-7pm).  [Disclaimer: I'm not super mathy anymore so let me know if I messed up one of my calculations.]

 

Driving distance from my house to our office is 4 miles.  Let's say I get 31.2 MPG (which according to Future Pundit is the average fuel economy for 2007 cars).  That means I use about 0.25 gallons of gas per round trip to and from work.  With the current super low gas prices in the city (I think I paid $2.05 for 9/10ths of a gallon the other day), that means the trip costs me about 52 cents (of course, a month or two ago, it would have cost twice that).  So let's say the round trip costs 50 cents to $1 depending on gas prices (which doesn't count for any idling in traffic or circling around the block looking for parking).  That means...with the congestion fee, the commute increases in cost to be $6.50 to $7 per car per day. 

 

Okay, so now let's talk about public transportation in SF.  A Fast Pass costs $45 and gets you unlimited MUNI and BART (bus, light rail, and subway-type thing) rides within the city.  If you use it exclusively for work commuting for 20 work days in a month, it costs you $2.25 per day.

 

Now let's compare...driving to work without the congestion charge costs $0.50 to $1 per day.  Driving to work with the congestion charge costs $6.50 to $7 per day.  Riding the bus with a Fast Pass costs $2.25 per day.  Based on those calculations, riding the bus is clearly way more affordable than driving with the congestion charge, but more expensive than driving without the charge.  Right?  Right.

 

Okay...but NOW!  Let's think about the entire cost of driving my car to work.  The initial calculation only took into account the cost of gas.  What about car insurance?  According to a report by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the average person in California paid $844 for car insurance in 2005.  Well, for simplicity sake, let's use that number (but it's most likely gone up in the last three years).  $844 over 12 months works out to be just over $70 per month.  Let's say you're just using your car to get to work (which is about as unlikely as just using your Fast Pass to only take the bus to and from the office).  That means every work day, you're paying an additional $3.52 for car insurance. 

 

What about car maintanence?  Well, that's a little more variable but let's say it's $130 per 15,000 miles (and that for sure doesn't include any major issues).  That adds another $0.07 to every work day commute.

 

What about parking tickets (which are kind of inevitable if you use street parking in San Francisco)?  Let's say you only get one per month...that's still an extra $50 for the month.  To be generous, let's say you only get one every two months.  That's still an extra $1.25 for every work day.  (Paying for a garge would be even more expensive.)

 

All of a sudden, our $0.50-$1 commute jumped to $5.31 to $5.81 per day and that's being generous with the car insurance, car maintenance, and the parking tickets and doesn't take the initial cost of the car into account. 

 

AND!  Of course, that also doesn't take all the negative externalities of driving a car and all the carbon emissions and noise pollution and all of that jazz which is hard to monetize (oh tragedy of the commons).

 

In any case, if you're thinking about pure dollars and cents of the work commute, I think the $45 for a Fast Pass is a great deal.

 

Plus you get the fun of seeing which two colors they pick for the pass every month.  So that's an added bonus.  :-)


Edited by stins - Tue, 02 Dec 2008 20:39:45 GMT
post #6 of 8

Good 'ol C.W. at the Chron wrote an article today that is quite critical of the plan: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/12/04/BALG14GTN7.DTL


Basically, he contends that the congestion fee idea is premature because many car commuters have no realistic public transportation options (think commuters from South Bay, North Bay, or suburbs). He argues that cities like London and Rome where congestion pricing is currently enforced had excellent public transportation infrastructure before the plans were put in place.
 

At the end of the article, C.W. quotes an opponent of congestion pricing who says, "If public transit were a preferable alternative, it would already be preferred." As Stins showed with her back-of-the-envelope calculations, congestion pricing definitely could help tip the balance for some commuters. That is a great thing for all the obvious reasons, but an important question is, will congestion pricing rapidly accelerate new public transportation projects? For those commuters who just don’t currently have the option of switching to train or bus, when might they expect to see these options arrive?

post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 

I don't know, one main purpose of the congestion tax is to raise money to make that public transportation system better.  And it's already pretty good, what with the BART and trains and bus systems.  I think people could manage.

post #8 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by nhtahoe:

For those commuters who just don’t currently have the option of switching to train or bus, when might they expect to see these options arrive?

 

Yeah, it definitely makes it more complicated when you're not commuting within the city.  Back when Huddler HQ was down in Redwood City, CA, I had 5 months of commuting from San Francisco down there.  And yes...I drove.  From my door to the office door, I would have had to take a bus to BART and then BART to the train and then walk from the train station to the office.  All told, it would have taken me about 2.5 hours (if timed perfectly) each way.  So I did the un-green thing...and drove (although I only ended up doing the round trip twice a week).  In a case like that, it would be very unfortunate to have a congestion charge.  But I think it would serve as an impetus to really get more public transit options going.  It might also encourage people to live and work closer together thereby cutting down the commute distance.

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