FOR IMMEDIATE ATTENTION: Bay Area Congestion Pricing Online Discussion Wednesday, August 26—Plan to Attend and Comment


Dear San Francisco Bay Area Members,

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority is planning an online open house on Wednesday, August 26, at 6:00 pm to discuss congestion pricing in downtown San Francisco. We encourage each of you to attend this online meeting and send comments.

Anti-car and Big Bike advocates such as San Francisco Transit Riders, the Bicycle Coalition, and Streetsblog San Francisco will have their supporters attend and provide oral comments en masse. Motorists need to have their voices heard too, and we encourage each of you to attend and make comments online.

Based on recent updates to their website, SFCTA is attempting to take advantage of the pandemic to accelerate the review of congestion cordon tolling under the auspices of “keeping the city moving.”

Of course, this ignores the fact that people are, by and large, choosing their own cars to travel now because of the risk of virus transmission. No CTA study has even suggested adding back previously-removed lane miles to the transportation system to address that mode shift.

When you make comments, please write from your voice and show how congestion pricing will harm you.

Here are eight strong objections to congestion pricing:

  • Congestion pricing schemes charge motorists variable fees for driving in certain areas at certain times of the day, such as morning and afternoon rush hour. Many people live farther outside of the city because they cannot afford housing near their place of business (especially true in the Bay Area). Congestion pricing might very well price them out again. An example: In 2018, single Virginia motorists using I-66 express lanes were hit with bills as high as $50 for commuting one-way on a 10-mile stretch between the Capital Beltway and the District of Columbia.
  • Congestion pricing will encourage more motorists and truckers to take surface streets through cities and towns in the area—many of which are not made for this kind of volume. Traffic safety, road maintenance problems, neighborhood pass-throughs, and other issues will result.
  • Price-surging can happen in mid-trip. You are already driving on the tolled highway, thinking you will be paying a certain amount, and the bill actually comes back much higher due to mid-trip price surging.
  • Many times the extra cash gathered from this kind of tolling will not be used for road maintenance but instead pays for public transit and other forms of transportation that cannot pay for itself, such as bike lanes. For example, NYC is poised to bring in Manhattan congestion pricing in the next few years to pay for the subway system.
  • Congestion pricing does not guarantee road safety and does not discourage driving. People drive for a reason. People want to drive more now due to the pandemic.
  • More street surveillance will be implemented. Automated license plate readers (ALPRs) would likely be used for congestion pricing and cashless tolling. These devices will track your comings and goings. Governments could then sell the information to marketing firms to find out where and when you travel to better market products to you. Of course, law enforcement agencies could also use the additional ALPRs in the area.
  • Goods and services will go up in the congestion pricing zone. Naturally, if service providers have to pay more to use the roads, the price will extend to customers.
  • According to the org, California currently has the highest gas tax in the country at 62.47 cents per gallon. Congestion pricing is a tax and will hurt the middle class and lower-income motorists, especially now due to the effects of the COVID-19 crisis.

We encourage each of you to write your city councils, and state elected leaders to advocate against congestion pricing. Also, please plan to attend the online open house on Wednesday, August 26, and don’t forget to send online comments by Tuesday, 8 am August 25. See above for details.

Congestion pricing is just one issue facing Northern California. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission is working on a run-around from the legislature in lowering all freeway speeds in the area to 55 mph. The NMA will send an additional alert out for this issue next week.

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