• Seattle considers congestion pricing and looks to other cities

    By: Graham Johnson

    Updated:

    Seattle traffic can be awful.

    But is it bad enough for people to support tolling drivers downtown to reduce congestion?

    Daniel Malarkey has studied congestion pricing in other cities for the Sightline Institute.

    He said that, when Stockholm rolled out tolling, 75% of people were against it.

    "But what happened is that, once people actually see it in action, that flips, so they now have 75% support for pricing in Stockholm," Malarkey said. 

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    The reason comes down to the benefits.

    On Tuesday, a consultant told the Seattle City Council that travel times in five cities with congestion pricing dropped between 10% and 33%.

    Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions ranged from 2.5% to 22%.

    In Central London, traffic dropped 30%.

    Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant was skeptical, saying consultants were "comparing apples to oranges."

    "The reason a lot of people are able not to drive in London is because they have far superior public transportation," Sawant said.

    Seattle's consultant suggests studying four ways to collect tolls, including charging drivers when they enter downtown or charging by the mile for trips downtown.

    Another idea is to charge only Uber and Lyft, which Malarkey cautions against.

    "It's certainly not fair, if you're targeting this very narrow group of riders. Single-occupant drivers who drive into town every day wouldn't pay a fee but, if I commute on a bus and need to get home because my kid's sick, I'll have to pay the charge," he said.

    Seattle is just beginning to study congestion pricing and it's not clear how much drivers would pay.

    Mayor Jenny Durkan has said she wants a policy by the end of her first term in 2021.

    New York City is in the process of rolling out the first congestion charge in the United States.
     

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