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Seattle mayor wants congestion pricing by end of first term

(File, KIRO Radio)

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan wants to implement congestion pricing in the city by 2021.

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The Seattle Times first reported the city will create a plan based on a study of downtown neighborhoods. Results from the study could be released this year.

A press release sent less than an hour after the Times story published online said Durkan will announce “bold short- and long-term steps that the City will take to advance towards its greenhouse gas reduction goals to reach its commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement.” Part of that plan is the development of a “congestion pricing strategy,” the mayor’s office confirmed. The press release only mentions easing mobility “through the downtown core.”

The city will do what Durkan called “deep outreach” as it works to create a policy around congestion pricing. During a press conference mid-morning on Wednesday, Durkan said it will not be “top-down government.”

Prior to her election, Durkan and mayoral candidate Cary Moon said the city should consider congestion pricing. Durkan said the city will need a “range” of solutions to deal with the current traffic problem.

In an interview with KIRO Radio last year, Durkan said the city needs a “more holistic way” to get traffic flowing. That holistic approach, according to Durkan, includes staggered start times for large employers, to incentivize carpooling, and encouraging the use of public transportation.

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On Tuesday, April 3, Durkan’s office posted a blog titled “Ahead of Mega Gridlock Expected Downtown, Mayor Jenny Durkan Commits to Additional Actions to Lessen Impact on Commuters and Businesses.” The post does not mention congestion pricing. However, it does point to the need to reduce traffic as mega projects also lead to “mega gridlock.”

Citing the 2017 Center City Modesplit Survey, Durkan’s office says transit use has increased in the last seven years in downtown during the morning commute. As did walking, biking, and rideshares. Meanwhile, there are approximately 4,500 fewer single-occupancy vehicles in the city.

It’s unclear what form of congestion pricing the mayor will push for. That may all depend on the study. Durkan told the Times the money generated from tolling the city’s roads would be pumped back into public transit.

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