| CONGESTIVE PRICING
By Wheelman, Member 'I Love my Wheels' May 13, 2009
Our leaders have hatched several new ways to fleece — that is to tax — us. Both fly under the deceptive title of “Congestion Pricing.” The title is intended to suggest that the City leaders are really interested in alleviating traffic congestion rather than crassly trying to pry more money out of us for things that were formerly free.
People of my generation can remember that when parking meters were first ‘sold’ to the public it was not to raise money but simply to regulate parking. Of course we now see how the Board of Supervisors and the mayor lean on parking revenue and parking fines as just another cash cow having no relation at all to parking regulation. In the same vein is “congestion pricing.”
Lets take a look are both of the new proposals:
1. Creation of a ‘congestion fee’ for all cars entering the central area of the downtown. One of the few things I remember about my first visit to San Francisco as a 7 or 8-year-old was waiting in a long line of traffic on the 5th Street on ramp to the Bay Bridge; that was in 1952. I have now lived in the City for nearly 40 years and still drive downtown on occasion. It is my impression that the traffic in downtown is not much different than it was 40 or 60 years ago. If there has been some slight worsening it is due not so much to increased traffic as some of the measures like bus lanes and bike lanes that have restricted the lanes available to cars.
However, the Department of Transportation in Washington has decided that there is a problem and so they have come up with a ready made ‘solution’ which our local leaders find wildly attractive because it gives them another stream of revenue. The theory is that even though people pay tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege of owning a car and thousands of dollars to maintain that car, and also spend large sums on gas, oil, bridge tolls and parking they nonetheless will suddenly balk at spending a few more bucks in order to go to a destination in downtown. Of course this theory not only defies all logic, it is also contrary to the wishes of our local leaders who are already counting the millions of dollars of fees they expect to collect from the new charge.
In fact it is a virtual certainty that after an initial backlash the number of cars entering downtown will be more or less the number that enter now, or, for that matter, the same number that have been entering for the past 40 or 60 years. In short we will still have congestion but the city will have found one more way to gouge the local residents.
2. Toll Charges on ‘Freeways’
An even more cynical ‘congestion tax’ … oops, I mean, is being pushed by or state leaders always on the lookout for a fast buck. They have proposed to reduce congestion on freeways throughout the state by letting any driver willing to pay a special “fee” drive his/her car in the lanes formerly reserved for carpools — so called ‘diamond lanes.’
Just think about that for a moment, for 30 or 40 years we have been told that the creation of the diamond lanes has reduced congestion because they supposedly encouraged drivers to join car pools and give up each one driving separately. Of course there never was any significant proof that the lanes really had that effect but that hasn’t stopped billions from being spent building those lanes. Now suddenly we are being told that if we let any who wants to drive in the diamond lanes that will reduce congestion (provided a fee is paid for the privilege .Well if that is true wouldn't it be easier to just do away with the diamond lanes in the first place and let everyone drive in them as they please without paying anyone anything?
In many places this would open up an entire lane of freeway that is only lightly used at the present time. Wouldn’t that be a true “win-win” situation? But, of course, as I have suggested throughout, this is really not about congestion but about raising money and so why would they give it away if they can sell it!
My modest suggestion to the folks at the Department of Transportation in Washington who are pushing these ‘congestion’ charges is that they try them out first in their own city, Washington, D.C., which has some of the worst traffic congestion in the country and which has a large federally subsidized subway system. Could it be that they would rather try this out somewhere else so they don’t have to pay the new fees?
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