Infrastructure
October 16, 2020

From LA to BC, the Futile Future of Congestion Pricing

 

On Thursday, the Eno Transportation Centre presented another of their webinars, this one with an irresistible title:

The webinar hosts three authors from the UCLA Luskin Centre for History and Policy who summarize the results of a just-released study:

We examined a century of programs to reduce congestion and found that several strategies were pursued over and over again in different eras. Los Angeles repeatedly built new street, highway, and transit capacity, regulated drivers and vehicle traffic flows, increased the use of information about traffic conditions, and controlled land use to influence traffic.

So what were the consequences?  No surprise, but here’s the spoiler anyway:

Congestion has been addressed in every era and in numerous ways, but always has returned.

The report gives the details decade by decade – every possibility from expanded road capacity to land use.  Except one:

Congestion pricing … based on proven theory of human economic behavior promoted for a century, proven in application to sectors of the economy other than transportation, and enabled by recent advances in telecommunications technology. It has a proven track record …

Big picture conclusion: except for a handful of cities in the world, congestion (or mobility) pricing is a policy intervention that has often been proposed but never adopted.  Despite the fact it works.  And may be the only thing that does.

TransLink, the Province, Metro Vancouver – they’ve all studied the issue, most recently in 2018 with the Mobility Pricing Independent Commission.  The conclusion was the same: some form of road pricing makes sense.  And then saw the concept under whatever name rejected by most political leaders literally within a day of its release.

Within a few hours of the Eno webinar, there was another Zoomy opportunity to get a local perspective.  A coalition of transportation interests – Moving in a Livable Region – held an all-candidates forum online with representatives from each party:

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Since it may result in ‘pricing the ride’, and thus plunge motordom into a user-pay system, the road use charges proposed by Metro Vancouver’s Mobility Pricing Independent Commission in their final report, issued today, will no doubt raise anguished howls of outrage.
But the proposed charges, along with more (and better) alternatives like transit, are crucial to building a region that works. Without these charges, the future will be even less functional than it is now.
Read, if you dare, the Metro Vancouver Mobility Pricing Study: Findings and Recommendations for an Effective, Farsighted, and Fair Mobility Pricing Policy (55 pages)
Price Tags welcomes your thoughts – for your consideration, here’s an excerpt from Part 1. Context.

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The Metro Vancouver Mobility Pricing Independent Commission will release its report tomorrow. (Expect to hear the pat-pat-pat of running feet as politicians distance themselves from anything that looks like a ‘road tax.’)
This report will be just the opening round as everyone in the region deals with the inevitability of transformative change in our transportation system.
Regardless of the options, one of the key (and most contentious) issues is the concept of ‘fairness.’  In April, economist Marc Lee at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives provided of the first, detailed outlooks on this issue, in the CCPA’s report “Getting Around Metro Vancouver.”

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Mobility Pricing – Is it time? Lessons from London and Stockholm
The Mobility Pricing Independent Commission will release their findings and recommendations for the region later this month. What lessons can Vancouver learn from other cities in moving forward  to achieve our transportation goals?
Join us to hear from Ben Plowden, Director of Strategy and Planning from Transport London and Mattias Lundberg, Head of Transportation Planning for the City of Stockholm. A panel discussion will follow with representatives  from leading North American cities to explore common opportunities and challenges with mobility pricing.
Our speakers will also be joined by panelists Amanda Eaken, Director of Transportation and Climate in the Healthy People, Thriving Communities Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Kristen Simpson, Acting Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Project Development Division.
Thursday, May 17
7:00-8:30 pm
SFU Segal Building, 500 Granville Street
Lecture Admission: Free, but registration required. Register for lecture.
Webcast: Free, but registration required. Register for webcast.

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WEBCAST — Mobility Pricing: Is it time? Lessons from London and Stockholm

The Mobility Pricing Independent Commission will release their findings and recommendations for the region later in May. What lessons can Vancouver learn from other cities in moving forward to achieve our transportation goals?
Join us to hear from Ben Plowden, Director of Strategy and Planning from Transport London and Mattias Lundberg, Head of Transportation Planning for the City of Stockholm. A panel discussion will follow with representatives from leading North American cities to explore common opportunities and challenges with mobility pricing.
Thursday, May 17
7 – 8:30 PM PDT

Register here Read more »

From CityLab:

After 15 years of existence, London’s method of congestion charging is dated. It needs to be bigger, longer, and greedier. London’s congestion charge turned 15 in February and it is showing its age. When the charge was introduced, no one foresaw the rapid proliferation of private hire vehicles like Uber. From 2013 to 2017, private hire vehicle registrations soared by over 75 percent: These cars are exempt from paying the congestion charge. … Read more »

From the Seattle Times, via Daily Durning:

Seattle will develop a plan to toll city roadways as part of its efforts to reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse-gas emissions, Mayor Jenny Durkan said Tuesday.
Details of what such a plan might look like are sparse, and will hinge on a tolling study focused on downtown neighborhoods that should have initial results later this year. …
Durkan said she was hopeful a congestion-pricing system could be in place by the end of her first term, in 2021. …
Seattle could implement tolling within the city without the permission of the state Legislature, but it would almost certainly require the approval of city voters.
In 2015, 56 percent of Puget Sound-area voters said systemwide tolling was a bad or very bad idea, according to a poll from the Puget Sound Regional Council. …
Revenues from congestion pricing would be used to increase transit service throughout the city and to support more electric transportation infrastructure, Durkan said. …
Limited tolling is already coming to downtown Seattle, with the opening of the Highway 99 tunnel, scheduled for later this year. But the state Transportation Commission continues to struggle deciding how much to toll and when to start tolling.
 

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As reported in the Province by Jen Saltman the City of Surrey is looking for two hundred Canadian drivers to participate in Washington State’s new road pricing initiative. Commenced in 2012 the Washington State Transportation Commission is exploring how and where road usage charges could be applied and have embarked on a year-long pilot project.
Two thousand Washington State residents and two hundred Canadians are being sought for the project. The Canadians will indicate how the new road pricing system could work for those that work and/or shop on the American side of the border.
Washington state residents will have four mileage reporting options: a mileage permit, electronic or in-person odometer readings, an automated “plug and play” meter and a smartphone app. Participants won’t be charged for their mileage during the pilot…Canadian participants will be given an automated meter that has GPS capability and is plugged into a car’s on-board diagnostics port. They will receive a “bill” each month that outlines their mileage — they will not be required to pay anything — and be asked to complete surveys.”
Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner (who will be one of the project participants) observed that this road pricing initiative was an opportunity for local politicians to learn more about the funding options. While not related to the work being done on congestion pricing for Metro Vancouver, it will show how another jurisdiction develops and administers a program, its income streams, and the impact of having road pricing in place.

 

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