Data shows mixed results of congestion pricing

July 29, 2010 6:43:36 AM PDT
The first data is in on the new congestion pricing on the Bay Bridge. The experimental toll structure aimed at encouraging carpooling and reducing congestion appears to be showing mixed results.

The success of higher bridge fares depends on who you talk to. On one hand, this is exactly what transportation officials hoped for to ease traffic delays. And while a faster commute may delight drivers, the price they're paying for it is taking its toll at the toll booths.

The Bay Area Toll Authority has just released its first data about the drivers' habits since tolls rose a $1 on all seven state-owned bridges July 1. The Bay Bridge increase was even higher with congestion-based pricing, hiking the fare to $6 during morning and evening commute times.

Also, there are no more free rides for carpoolers. It costs $2.50 and that may be contributing to changes in driver behavior. Transportation officials say a side effect is an increase in mass transit ridership -- BART is reporting around 4,500 more riders on its trains each weekday.

Carpool crossings on the region's seven bridges have declined over 12,000 a day. That's about a 30 percent decrease from this time last year. On the Bay Bridge in particular, overall commutes have fallen just over 6,000 vehicles a day.

The positive result of all this is that Bay Bridge traffic delays have almost been cut in half. The time it takes to reach the toll plaza from nearby freeway ramps has dropped from 19 minutes to 10.

One note about BART's recent increase in ridership it says that may not all necessarily be due to higher tolls, but also because of reduced service on AC Transit, due to labor contract problems with drivers, who've been calling out sick.

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