Decongest me - Page 3

Congestion pricing could raise millions for the city and reduce traffic

They put up with inhumane levels of traffic and congestion, which affects the health and livability of their neighborhoods."

Dave Synder, transportation policy director for SPUR (San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association), said he believes the regressive tax argument is a misleading attack.

"The truth is, that without the revenues this program will bring, the MTA will have to cut service for poor people, not increase service to meet increased demand for people who can no longer afford to drive," Synder told us.

But several local business groups are claiming that San Francisco doesn't have a congestion problem compared to European cities.

Ken Cleveland of San Francisco's Building Owners and Managers Association, said he believes that reports of congestion in San Francisco "are more hype than reality.

"We have no problem compared to London, Rome, and Stockholm," Cleveland said. "Congestion fees may work when you have a huge city with millions of people crammed in, like in London, Manhattan, Rome, but not in San Francisco."

Cleveland urged a hard look at what this increase means for people who drive now. " Fees of $160 a month would be "a real hit" on the middle and working classes, he said.

Jim Lazarus of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce said he opposed a local cordon, but supports a regional congestion pricing program. "Look out the window at 10.45 a.m., and you'll see that there is no congestion on Montgomery and Pine," Lazarus told us, noting that unlike London, which covers 600 square miles, San Francisco only has a 49-square-mile footprint.

"If you decide not to go into downtown London, the odds are your taxes, jobs, and revenues will still go into London's coffers," he said. "That's not the case in San Francisco. So from a small business point of view, it doesn't make sense."

Bent says the SFCTA's study provides numbers that are irrefutable, in terms of showing how travel times are impacted by congestion, during peak hours. "We're talking about modest improvements in speed, but significant improvements in travel time," Bent said.

The proposed fees won't affect shoppers, museum-goers, or those going out at night, but would benefit all users of the public transit system, Moscovich said.

"We're not designing for London, we're designing for San Francisco," Moscovich told the Guardian. "And this is not an anti-automobile program. This is an effort to achieve a balanced transportation system."

With the congestion fee revenue reinvested in transportation infrastructure, Moscovich adds, public transit will be less crowded, and provide more frequent, faster service.

"It all makes perfect internal sense: folks with the least resources are likely to benefit the most," said Moscovich, who predicts that San Francisco will agree on some form of congestion pricing.

"The mayor wants to be seen as a leader in initiating climate change commitment, and transportation is one of the first ways to achieve this," he said. "Especially since 50 percent of San Francisco's greenhouse emissions occur during peak hour travel."

"We're trying to change behavior, not just engineering. We don't want people in cars. ... For every pollution-free Prius, you have diesel buses and older cars sitting in traffic idling, essentially eroding any benefits. The best way to optimize results is to get some cars out of the peak hour."

Sup. Jake McGoldrick, who is president of the SFCTA board and has supported the congestion fee-pricing system since it was implemented in London, said that "business will have to step up [and] make a willing suspension of disbelief to see that enhanced mobility will enhance business opportunities.

"There will be no need to get mauled at the mall," McGoldrick predicts.