Today San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors is meeting to review plans that would combat congested roadways by instituting the United States’ first traffic toll. A congestion pricing plan would most likely create a charge for motorists entering the city via the Bay Bridge or Golden Gate Bridge, encouraging the use of environmentally-friendly modes of transportation. Although the initiative comes at a turbulent economic time, the plan stands to get people out of their cars and empower San Francisco’s public transportation, pedestrian, and bicycle projects while increasing traffic speed and cutting carbon emissions.
Congestion pricing plans are currently enacted in London, Stockholm, Singapore, and Milan, and in the past similar initiatives have been proposed in New York, although they’ve met with fierce opposition.
Jose Luis Mpscovich, executive director of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority has stated that “congestion pricing is totally doable in San Francisco . . . there are alternatives that can be implemented with ways to mitigate the impacts”. The plans being proposed include discounted tolls for commercial fleets as well as exemptions for low income residents and drivers with disabilities.
Mayor Gavin Newsom has said that “a sensible congestion-pricing plan is the single greatest step we can take to protect our environment and improve our quality of life.” The money collected by a congestion plan would stand to benefit San Francisco’s increasingly sustainable public transportation options, from the BART system to biodiesel buses and electric muni trams and trolleys.
The city has already instigated several initiatives to help cut down on traffic including the SFpark program, which varies parking meter prices according to the current demand.