February 17, 2005

San Francisco Mulls London-Like Downtown Driving Toll

"Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, chair of the San Francisco Transportation Authority, will ask the agency to study a downtown toll zone -- whereby drivers would need to purchase a daily pass to drive in The City's most congested streets -- as a potential solution to the Municipal Transportation Agency's woeful budget problems," the San Francisco Examiner reports.

"Modeled on similar 'congestion charging' zones in London, cameras would record license plates and tickets would be issued for motorists who failed to purchase a pass. The intent is for drivers to pick other routes, avoid coming downtown or switch to Muni, which would travel more efficiently in the faster flowing streets."

Interesting idea. In a fair number of U.S. cities, there are simply too many vehicles wanting to drive in an area that just can't support them. And there's only so much more pavement you can add to a congested downtown -- already, too many cities have highways in/through them, that have a dreadful impact on the urban streetscape and neighborhood.

Governments currently subsidize private vehicles, through road building (can someone say multi-billion-dollar Big Dig?), road repair and road plowing. Why not finally use the "market" approach so beloved by conservatives? The key here, though, is ensuring that there's truly available, convenient and affordable public transit for those who can't afford the fees.

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