SF considers downtown congestion pricing


Imagine you come over the Bay Bridge or Golden Gate Bridge during the morning commute, pay the $6 toll fee, then that evening when you leave your job in the northeast section of San Francisco, you have to pay another $6. Your total fees getting to and from work will be $12 daily. That scenario is among the options studied by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, who says we have to find new ways to reduce growing congestion and pay for transit and infrastructure improvements.

Congestion pricing has worked in other cities around the world. The authority just completed a study of three options. One involves a morning and evening peak time $3 charge when coming into or out of the northeast section of San Francisco; bordered by Laguna Street on the west, 18th Street on the south, and the Bay. The second option involves a $6 fee only when leaving that area during the evening commute. And a third option puts the fee at the San Francisco/San Mateo County border charging $3 in both directions morning and evening on the major arteries.

The authority says even when factoring in a 50 percent discount for low-income people, any of those scenarios or some combination yields between $60 million and $80 million in annual revenue. That money would be put back into transit and transportation infrastructure improvements.

"We understand that this is a very big change in people's lives, potentially. We're not talking about doing this tomorrow," said Chang.

"To me it sounds a little ridiculous," said Indira Garcia. She takes transit to work in the northeast quadrant, but doesn't always go home on transit. "Sometimes my husband picks me up sometimes after work, he's close by, so is he just going to pay $6 just for me to get the car and leave the city?"

Michael Giordano bikes to work, so the northeast quadrant fee could be good for him, but not so on the southern border.

"That's tough because I surf and go down south on 1, so that would be tougher for me," said Giordano.

Even a pilot program would require legislative approval and probably local approval as well. Right now the timeline for a pilot or permanent plan has a start date of 2015. Next month the Board of Supervisors, acting as the Authority Board, will decide if the Authority should continue planning for this type of congestion pricing scenario.

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