Congestion pricing is here to stay

July 1, 2010 7:05:20 PM PDT
It's costing more to cross the bay. Starting July 1, drivers travelling during peak commute hours had to pay $2 on the Bay Bridge -- it's called "congestion pricing" and get used to it, there is more of it coming to a highway near you.

Thursday morning commuters did some odd things on the bay bridge during peak time. Caltrans reported one car pulled over to wait two minutes to avoid paying the congestion pricing fee. This is just the beginning.

Congestion pricing will extend beyond the Bay Bridge Toll Plaza. In the next 25 years, there will be an 800-mile network of highways where congestion pricing is in place.

In September, I680 along the Sunol Grade will test some express lanes, some call them "HOT lanes" -- high occupancy toll lanes.

Your FasTrak account will be charged every time you use them with the price going up or down during peak periods as the traffic increases or decreases. They're already operating in parts of Southern California.

"Typically they are used just on an occasional basis by folks who absolutely, positively, have to be somewhere on time, whether it's making a run to the airport or picking up a child at daycare," said John Goodwin from the Bay Area Toll Authority.

A second congestion pricing project is underway on Highway 580 from Pleasanton to Livermore.

The third project is in the South Bay on a short connector that links I237 to I880 in Milpitas.

People have different opinions about congestion pricing.

"It's a pain in the neck. They want a lot more revenue, but it just adds to the dysfunction of our society," said Milbrae Resident Ken Leland.

Few think it will change their driving pattern.

"You can probably charge $10 to get across the Bay Bridge and people will still be doing it. It's a necessary evil. BART doesn't have enough cars to go across and you got to do it," said San Francisco resident Preston Becker.

Jason Henderson, Ph.D., teaches urban transportation at San Francisco State University. He says congestion pricing works well when you give people options.

"What London did at the very beginning was it bonded, it took out hundreds of millions of dollars and really upgraded its bus system, so that people really were presented with a choice. And we've got a serious problem in the Bay Area, where what's been happening is every transit agency in this region has been cut," said Henderson.

And there's no indication public transportation will expand as congestion pricing moves forward.


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