Update Dec 15: The Chronicle doesn’t like the congestion pricing plans now on the table.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has ditched a controversial plan to study the possibility of charging commuters entering and exiting the southern part of the city a toll of up to $3.

A plan to study a fee for commuters who drive downtown, however, will proceed.

These proposals are part of the city’s “congestion pricing” initiative. According to the Federal Highway Administration, congestion pricing works like this:

(Congestion pricing shifts) purely discretionary rush hour highway travel to other transportation modes or to off-peak periods, taking advantage of the fact that the majority of rush hour drivers on a typical urban highway are not commuters. By removing a fraction (even as small as 5%) of the vehicles from a congested roadway, pricing enables the system to flow much more efficiently, allowing more cars to move through the same physical space. Similar variable charges have been successfully utilized in other industries – for example, airline tickets, cell phone rates, and electricity rates. There is a consensus among economists that congestion pricing represents the single most viable and sustainable approach to reducing traffic congestion.

On Sunday, Rachel Gordon of the Chronicle laid out key components of the plans that were under consideration:

The idea is that the toll would reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions while generating an estimated $60 million to $80 million in net revenue annually to pay for such transportation-related expenses as transit improvements, street repaving, upgraded traffic signals and bike and pedestrian enhancements.

Motorists crossing greater downtown San Francisco and the city’s southern border with San Mateo County could be affected by the proposed toll. (NOTE: This option rejected by Supes today), under the options now on the table.

In all three cases, the daily charge would be capped at $6 per vehicle, with no fees imposed during the midday, evenings or weekends. The annual bill for commuters driving in the toll zones would be $1,560, if they drive five days a week, 52 weeks a year.

The hours the charge would be in effect, the precise borders of the toll zones and potential discounts for people living and working within or near the boundaries are among the issues that would be refined and analyzed, should staff get the go-ahead to further evaluate feasibility of the concept, said Tilly Chang, the Transportation Authority’s deputy director of planning. Full article

These proposals are laid out in the San Francisco County Transportation Authority’s San Francisco Mobility, Access, and Pricing Study.

Two case studies that the report draws on are London and Stockholm. You can read about those at Wikipedia, here and here.

The study recommends a timeline of 20 steps in order to implement the plan in 2015.

KQED’s Forum discussed congestion pricing this morning. Guests were San Mateo Assemblyman Jerry Hill, Jose Luis Moscovich of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, Rachel Gordon of the San Francisco Chronicle, Rob Black of the Francisco Chamber of Commerce, and SF Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi. Hill has been a vocal opponent of any fee levied on motorists who drive between the Peninsula and San Francisco.

Check out the three different proposals for congestion zones and payment plans on the map below. All proposals give a discount to residents close to, or in the zone, and nothing will take effect until 2015. The third proposal, as we said, has been rejected.

The three proposals:
1. Northeast Cordon (blue lines) would impose a $3 charge for drivers entering the area during the morning and afternoon. Residents would receive a discount.

2. Northeast Cordon (blue lines) would impose a $6 charge on drivers leaving the area during peak times. Residents would receive a discount.

3. This proposal was struck down. Drivers entering the city through the Bay Bridge, Golden Gate Bridge or through the San Mateo city line would have paid $3 during rush hour. Residents close to the San Mateo border would have received a discount.

View Proposed Congestion Zones in a larger map

Lisa Pickoff-White contributed to this post.

SF Supes Reject Peninsula Toll Plan 15 December,2010Jon Brooks


Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks is the host and editor of KQED’s health and technology blog, Future of You. He is the former editor of KQED’s daily news blog, News Fix. A veteran blogger, he previously worked for Yahoo! in various news writing and editing roles. He was also the editor of EconomyBeat.org, which documented user-generated content about the financial crisis and recession. Jon is also a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S. He has written about film for his own blog and studied film at Boston University. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College.

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