Skepticism Towards Congestion Pricing in San Francisco

If there’s one place in America most likely to adopt congestion pricing, you would think it would be San Francisco. The combination of affluence, deep-seated environmentalism and a tradition of progressive politics would lend itself to adopting the program. But even residents there are skeptical.

Congestion pricing is the practice of charging commuters a fee for driving through a congested downtown area during peak commute times. In San Francisco, they are discussing a payment of between 50 cents and $5 to be assessed to drivers who commute between 6–9 a.m. and 3–6 p.m. The argument is that by doing so, you reduce congestion and raise public coffers to be poured into public transportation. In London, traffic was reduced 21% and public transit increased 36% when congestion pricing was adopted (it’s also been adopted in Singapore and Stockholm).

But SF is no London when it comes to public transportation. Anyone who has ever stuffed themselves into a city bus headed for points westward after work knows it is not nearly as reliable or as comfortable as “the tube.” It seems like there would have to be a rise in the standards of public transportation there to really make it effective – and money for that would not be available for some time given California’s budget circumstances.