Will drivers accept congestion tolling in Seattle?
Seattle’s traffic problems are well-documented, and to fix it, there’s research being done to figure out whether congestion tolling could act as a possible solution. But will the city’s drivers come to accept it, or is it doomed to fail?
“People are so used to suffering with unreliable roads and traffic congestion, that there’s a perception that this is just a new cost,” TransForm’s Stuart Cohen told KIRO Radio’s Candy, Mike and Todd Show.
TransForm recently released a report on congestion tolling, advocating for its implementation, and making the case for it as an effective means for reducing traffic.
“In reality there’s this big benefit [to congestion tolling], and once people experience it, the popularity tends to go up for these systems,” Cohen said. “In Stockholm, at first they put it in against people’s wishes, and by the time a public vote happened, people realized these benefits; it ended up winning in the vote by almost two-thirds.”
Cohen is referring to Sweden’s decision to try a congestion tolling system in 2006, enacting it in 15 separate municipalities. After a six-month trial period, Stockholm was the lone city that voted to keep the system in place.
After five years of operation, the city was rewarded for its steadfastness by a decrease in traffic by over 20 percent.
A similar measure used in London yielded similar results, providing a 15 percent decrease in traffic, funding the addition of new bus routes, and helping expand the subway system.
As for “how” of it all, that boils down to simple economics.
“When people have to pay the true cost for something, they use it more efficiently,” TransForm’s congestion tolling study reads.
Not everyone agrees with the core principles behind the system, though.
“I feel so offended that my employees want to charge me auction rates to use my resources — I feel like I’m being bribed with my money,” said Todd Herman, following the interview with Cohen. “I’m not fine on economically punishing people to socially engineer them into doing something that doesn’t work for them.”
“We all can’t use stuff at exactly the same time, so why not create a plan that incentivizes people to not use things at the peak hours?” co-host Mike Lewis fired back. “That’s what congestion pricing is all about.”
Seattle is still waiting on a study from consulting company Nelson\Nygaard to study the potential impacts various tolling scenarios or models would have on the city. Once it gets those results back, we can expect to hear more on what exactly congestion tolling in Seattle would look like.