San Francisco Considers Nation’s First Congestion Pricing

After New York City failed to pass a congestion pricing scheme last year, San Francisco is considering tomorrow a way to charge incoming traffic a fee to reduce congestion and address climate change

San Francisco was ranked the fourth most-congested US city in 2008 by the Texas Transportation Institute, after #1 Washington DC. Besides the city’s concern with reducing downtown traffic congestion by trying to get more commuters into the city on public transit, congestion pricing can reduce local air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Other cities that have successfully implemented congestion pricing include London, Stockholm, and Singapore.  Since London’s program went into effect in 2005, downtown congestion has decreased 26% while local CO2 air pollution has decreased 16%.

It’s a tough time for any US city to be considering such a measure (London visitors pay a flat eight British Pounds, or about $13, when they enter the city), but the price of congestion alone can have signficant negative impacts on local economies: estimates for NYC’s congestion annual economic impacts on lost time, fuel and revenue were $13 billion.  

On top of congestion, when one considers public health costs from air pollution and compliance risks to upcoming greenhouse gas regulations, congestion pricing seems like a much better deal than business as usual.