Seattle mayor proposes tolls for downtown streets

SEATTLE — Mayor Durkan says charging a toll to drive downtown would address both.downtown traffic congestion and the global climate change caused by burning fossil fuels.

“One of the things we are going to look at is improving our traffic and helping on climate goals by looking at and studying congestion pricing,” she said during a news conference overlooking the city from Seattle’s Kerry Park.

Congestion pricing has been used in Central London for 15 years with drivers paying the equivalent of $15 a day.

Under state law, Seattle would need voter approval to impose a congestion fee.

"No. I think it's kind of stupid," said commuter Tee Sulchik when asked if he'd be willing to pay a toll to drive downtown. 
"It's just another control, getting more money, and it's not logical," said commuter Thomas Boyce.
Asked if there might be some sort of exemption for people who really needed their vehicles to conduct business downtown, Durkan said, "I think it's way too early to talk about exemptions because we don't know what it's going to look like. We've got to study it. We've got to talk to people and we've got to listen to people."

She said improving transit will be important, so that people will have alternatives to driving. City Council Member Mike O’Brien said money from the congestion fee would help.

“Those revenues can be invested back into transit, back into electric vehicle charging stations, those type of things, so the lowest-income people in our community are actually better off, not worse off," O'Brien said.

Seattle wouldn't necessarily be the only Northwest city with downtown congestion pricing.

Portland and Vancouver, BC, already have studies well underway, and Seattle’s study of the concept is scheduled to be done in October.

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