The streets of San Francisco may become costly for drivers.
The San Francisco County Transportation Authority recently released a study concerning the implementation of a congestion pricing plan in high-traffic areas. If put into action, the plan would charge drivers a $3 fee for driving in and out of the city’s congested areas during weekday peak-hours.
City officials considering the toll, cite reduced traffic congestion and the emission of greenhouse gases as reasons in favor of adopting the plan. The fees will go into improving the city’s public transit system as well as cycling and pedestrian pathways.
San Francisco’s downtown is extremely congested, and anything that would improve the traffic situation is worth consideration.
However, there are some problems with their logic.
This plan is unlikely to drastically reduce downtown congestion. People working in the Financial District who can already afford to drive into the city to pay and park will not stop because of a fee. Furthermore, it is doubtful that regional travelers making a special trip to San Francisco to shop at high-end retailers in Union Square will be dissuaded by the small fee.
Though it will not reduce congestion, San Francisco will still benefit from this toll, as it is ultimately a way to bring in revenue for public transportation.
While implementing new fees is never ideal, San Francisco’s public transit infrastructure is in dire need of improvements and expansion.
Many consider public transportation in California’s major cities to be subpar when compared to their European and East Coast counterparts, and San Francisco is no exception. MUNI buses are often criticized for being unkempt, unreliable and many times indirect. A trip from a residential neighborhood such as the Richmond District to downtown can be unreasonably time consuming and require multiple transfers.
Although other systems such as light rail MUNI Metro and Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) are more efficient, they too have limitations.
The city is considering other plans including “The Double-ring,” which would charge drivers entering San Francisco at each of its gateways: Highways 101 and 280, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge, as well as charging an additional toll when entering the downtown area.
While tolling drivers passing through the downtown zone has its benefits, implementing such a fee on drivers for simply driving on highways over San Francisco is draconian. Residents of neighboring counties who must travel through San Francisco on the freeway as a part of their commute would suffer immensely.
For many of these commuters, a car is their only option. The idea of riding public transportation for such an extensive commute is impractical, costly and an overall waste of time. Such Northern California drivers would be slapped with a twice-daily fee in addition to the costs of gas, parking and bridge tolls.
If San Francisco wants to wean people off their cars, it has a long way to go. More funds put into public transit infrastructure is a way to start, and will greatly help the city and its residents, as well as the environment.
This is, of course, if city bureaurocrats are sure to appropriate funds to public transportation and only public transportation.