Dealing with Traffic Congestion in San Francisco

Driver fees could help combat gridlock(Will Reisman, San Francisco Examiner, May 19, 2013)

Also discussed here: San Francisco Mobility, Access, and Pricing Study(63 page pdf, San Francisco County Transportation Authority, 2010)

And here: Case Studies: Stockholm and London(2 page pdf, San Francisco County Transportation Authority, 2010)

And here: Mobility, Access and Pricing Study | Myths vs. Facts(2 page pdf, San Francisco County Transportation Authority, 2010)

Today we review a city report and press comments about congestion in San Francisco where commuters spend 61 hours each year. A number of recommendations have been made, including a $3/trip fee as part of a broader congestion pricing scheme, car-sharing, adding transit only lanes, etc., that would reduce traffic and congestion by 27%. Revenues from congestion charging program could yield up to $80 million each year which would then be used to improve mobility and transportation needs of the city. City Council gave a go-ahead to further study which is one step better than many other American and Canadian cities (such as Toronto and Ottawa) where road vehicles cause at least 50% of greenhouse gas emissions and health impacts from traffic-related pollution. A pilot project is the most favoured option (at 46%) and over 65 percent of travellers think San Francisco should explore congestion pricing, according to recent polls.

sf congestion

To see Key Quotes and Links to key reports about this post, click HERE


5 Responses

  1. The Way It Is Now Congestion pricing or road pricing is the practice of charging drivers fees to use certain roads during certain hours, in order to encourage mode-shifting to public transit and bicycling and to decrease traffic congestion. According to the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA), the Bay Area is the second most congested metropolitan area in the nation. Only 28 percent of the one million daily trips to the downtown, SoMA and Civic Center neighborhoods are made via public transit. In response to these statistics, the SFCTA has begun to study the possibility of a congestion pricing scheme for San Francisco. While specific results and recommendations are not yet available, our analysis roughly describes the effect of a congestion pricing scheme in the city. What Others Do: London Congestion Pricing Congestion pricing has been implemented internationally in many cities, most famously in London, but also in Stockholm, Singapore, Milan and others. The London scheme charges motorists driving in central London eight pounds on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Exemptions from the charge include motorcycles, taxis, some alternative fuel vehicles, buses, emergency vehicles and vehicles used by those with disabilities. Area residents receive a 90 percent discount for their vehicles. Drivers can make payments through retail outlets, payment machines, the Internet, and by text messaging. The scheme is enforced with a network of video cameras that record the license plate numbers and match these numbers to the list of payments. A fine is charged for users who do not pay.

  2. To do a congestion[pricing] system for downtown San Francisco would require monitoring close to a hundred intersections, and this is with the advantage of the Bay making a natural border on the east and north sides! If a city has some sort of natural choke points entering and exiting (i.e. bridges) it seems easier to do a congestion charge.

  3. Current policy does internalize a small fraction of these costs through gasoline taxes, parking fees, and tolls. However, substantial external costs remain unaccounted for. There are many different possible interventions, and the City of San Francisco does not necessarily have the authority to impose many of them on its own. Perhaps the two most promising policies that the City might wish to consider on a local level are revising parking prices (particularly in areas where people park during the workday) and imposing a congestion charge to enter the city during high-traffic times. These policies would have a similar effect: raising the price of peak-hour commuting, which imposes external costs per mile driven that are far greater than the average figures discussed above (particularly for congestion and accidents) due to high traffic density. Careful analysis and policy design would be required to set appropriate prices.

  4. Would a fixed rail trolley line on busy Los Angeles city streets be viable? The last Red Car trolleys were pulled off the streets of Los Angeles in the early 1960’s, largely because they could no longer operate on LA’s traffic-clogged roads. At that point their alignments needed to be undergrounded or grade-separated. Since the City’s elected officials were car-happy, neither option happened, and the old trolley system folded. The tracks were pulled up or paved over. Some cars were sold off, and others were dumped into the ocean near Long Beach.

  5. The first scenario – which involves the city’s downtown core – is the one that reduces the most number of driving trips, according to SFCTA studies. The congestion fee would generate an estimated $60 million to $80 million yearly, which would be used to pay for transit and traffic improvements.

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