How do you feel about congestion pricing?: HWR, Jan. 22

Credit: Getty Images.

I’m very curious to hear everyone’s comments on the article that ran in the Los Angeles Times this morning. I highly encourage everyone to read it — no grazing please. The story is very good and thorough.

The gist of it: Metro staff are recommending that congestion pricing — tolling roads in plain English — could be used to build 28 major projects in time for the 2028 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in the L.A. area.

If the agency’s Board (12 of the 13 members are elected officials, btw) ultimately goes for it, Metro would launch a one- to two-year study on where to test congestion pricing. They could toll an area, corridor or charge a fee based on how many miles a motorist drives. As Metro CEO Phil Washington told the Board last month, such a plan could fund free transit.

Twenty of the projects are scheduled to be done by 2028. About $26 billion, however, must be secured to accelerate or fund the other eight projects, a list that includes a couple of big ones — namely the Sepulveda Transit Corridor. Enter congestion pricing, which has the most potential to raise the most funds, says Metro staff.

The staff report is embedded below or you can find the report + attachments here.

From Metro’s point of view, I want to stress that there is no firm congestion pricing plan on the table at this time. Metro staff this month are asking the Board to approve a list of key programs whose funding would be off-limits to the “Reimagining” program. Staff will return to the Board next month with a funding plan. Staff are recommending that the plan include tolling.

Also on the list of potential new revenue sources: fees on Uber/Lyft rides and fees on other “New Mobility” devices, i.e. scooters.

One notable excerpt from the LAT article:

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the Olympics transit and highway projects should be “disentangled” from the question of congestion pricing.

He said Metro can close the $26.2-billion gap by pursuing federal funds and other financing strategies to build on the money raised through Measure M, the sales-tax increase voters approved in 2016.

“I don’t yet support any particular proposal or congestion pricing as a philosophy,” Garcetti said. “But if it can work and if it can help us achieve our goals… I think it’s a conversation worth starting. I’m going to push very strongly to do that.”

And this:

“It challenges what Angelenos see as their God-given right to drive anywhere they want,” said Manuel Pastor, director of USC’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equity. “It would be a challenging shift in a city that’s very much a car culture and an individual culture.”

The article notes that having a good transit alternative is essential — and maybe that could be in the form of new express buses. I thought the article ended with a fascinating quote from the Natural Resources Defense Council Carter Ruben (a Source alum): he suggests that tolling could turn every commute into a Sunday morning-like drive. 

Which leads to a pair of obvious questions: how much will tolls need to be to take that many cars off the road during weekday peak times? And if driving is so quick and such a breeze, won’t that just highlight the travel time difference between driving and transit?

The LAT also published an editorial over the weekend that sidesteps the issue of how to do congestion pricing but favors the concept and concludes with this question:

Even if congestion pricing alone doesn’t save mankind, it probably could save Los Angeles from smothering in traffic and air pollution. The unanswered question at this point is whether Metro can do it in a way that’s both effective and fair.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. I’m guessing this part of the Board meeting on Thursday will, unlike some government meetings, not require caffeine. The LAT article, btw, has a bunch of comments and there are some more in reporter Laura Nelson’s Twitter stream. Click below.

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Friendly reminder: the closure of the southern half of the Blue Line and Willowbrook/Rosa Parks Station begins on Saturday. This is for work to upgrade the line. All the details here.

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Caption contest! If you were marketing transit, what would your caption be? Comment please.

Mine: When life gets tough, we’ll still give you a ride.

Perhaps this is why I am not employed by our marketing department…

The pic was taken on Saturday after the Women’s March. Crowds were definitely nowhere near as large as two years ago but there were still a lot of people on hand and the extra Metro rail service seemed to handle everything just fine, IMHO.

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Another funding story, this from the SGV Tribune: How LA Metro might close the funding gap for the Gold Line foothill extension to Pomona and beyond. Key excerpt:

While not set in stone, Metro is proposing diverting future Measure M tax dollars slated for Glendora, La Verne, Pomona, San Dimas and Claremont.

A big chunk of change from Measure M — 17 percent — goes back to cities and unincorporated areas on a per capita basis. That was a big part of the appeal of Measure M (and Measure R for that matter) to local officials: they were guaranteed to get something back even if a big project was not slated for their area.

Very understandable. On the other hand, that also denies money to big road and transit projects. So no surprise it’s may be a thorny issue as Metro tries to help find funds to get the Gold Line project to Claremont, as originally envisioned. Thoughts, voters and readers and denizens of the Foothill Corridor?

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From the Department of Local Air Quality: well, it was pretty great thanks to last week’s rains and the winds.

Here are two different perspectives — Sunday morning from Mt. Wilson and Monday afternoon from the Baldwin Hills. One tiny thought: these type of photos betray how large our area is, thus the challenge in getting people around whether by car or transit or anything else.

Downtown Los Angeles skyline from Mt. Wilson. Photo courtesy Steve Hymon.

La Brea Avenue at the bottom, the Wilshire corridor at mid-frame and the Santa Monica and San Gabriel Mountains at the top. Photo courtesy Steve Hymon. And, yes, telephoto lenses smoosh things together and make them appear closer than what they really are.

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Dept. of Go Metro to See The NFC Champion Rams at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 2019: the Rams will play the Seahawks, 49ers, Cardinals, Bears, Bucs, Ravens and Saints at home whereas the Rams impending slaughter of the Bengals will be a Rams home game played in London. As a Cincinnati native and Bengals sympathizer, perhaps it’s best that transpires on a different continent.

The guess here is that if the Rams win the Super Bowl, they’ll host New Orleans in the traditional NFL opener on Thursday night, Sept. 5. As for NFL officiating — it’s terrible and the rules have gotten so complex it seems that no one in the NFL can actually decide what is and isn’t pass interference, holding, a catch, roughing the passer or a illegal hit to the head.

The Chiefs, btw, have more reason to whine than the Saints, again IMHO. Edelman’s muffed punt should have given the ball to Kansas City in Patriots territory and a phantom roughing the passer call gave New England a Very Important 15 yards and a first down it did not deserve. Hmm.

And this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

22 replies

  1. Guys. No. It is not right or smart (or environmentally progressive) to punish people for driving (out of necessity, not for pleasure…not in LA), when there is insufficient public transit penetration and/or efficiency. Why now? What about the gas tax money and the Measure R funds? This just pisses people off… Sorry, but you asked.

  2. As Usual…incomplete – Toll Road or lanes are only one element of “Congestion Pricing”….OriginRouteDestination…ever tried to park at your destination in NYC or London…Cabbies/Drivers are your destination/parking pricing….Preferential Parking permits are your Origin/Congestion Pricing….So Metro/With LACity have an opportunity to demonstrate a larger picture approach….DTLA Congestion Zone…with ParkNRide Mixed UseLand Dev. at about one mile away from the DTLA core….NO DTLA ground level parking…or with a city fee of $25/d…every day (=$175/week) for any ground/single floor car space….$25/day to cross on any street into the DTLA Pricing Zone…with ParkNRide for those without transponders….or $200+ entry ticket per day and no parking permitting in the DTLA for those with transponders….Parking permits and transponders for those resident in DTLA. Come On People we can do better than London or NYC

  3. As a former RTD/MTA employee I can attest to the fact that those making decisions at the MTA have no idea what they are doing. Most of those employees who had on hands experience on how transit should be operated have either been terminated or have retired and been replaced with text book so called experts. We see one seat commutes via buses chopped up so now passengers are expected to transfer from one bus to another. Not only is this passenger unfriendly but results in higher labor costs.

    The Blue Line was built to non-standard specifications and now billions are being spent to bring up to normal standards in addition to the inconvenience that Blue Line passengers are facing for the next year. And don’t fool yourselves about where these bus shuttles are coming from. The federal government only subsidizes the replacement of older buses, not additions to the fleet. This means either the spare ratio is reduced, buses needed for replacement of buses needing servicing or have broken down, or service on some lines are reduced so those buses can be used on the shuttles. Either way labor cost will be increased to man these buses with bus operators.

    Why is the MTA so committed to extending the Gold Line to Claremont which outside of Los Angeles County and is already served by MetroLink using the same right of way? My only guess is someone has made a very big political contribution. These billions dedicated to this boondoggle could be better spent building a light rail line in a far more congested area where no freeways exist and traffic including buses experience total gridlock much of the day.

    And now the MTA will be studying Congestion Pricing to fleece more money out of Los Angeles residents that find the MTA does not serve their needs. Not one more cent should be spent on rail until the peoples needs are met, not the politically connected.

    I’m sure this post will be deleted and new comments never forwarded to me because the truth is unwanted by those at the MTA.

    • Claremont is in L.A. County. The project is proposed to terminate in Montclair, which is in San Bernardino County — which also would have to fund that portion of the line.

      Also, we publish the vast majority of your comments.

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  4. London has had congestion pricing for quite some time now. I noticed that there were still a huge number of taxicabs driving during congestion pricing. Florence, Italy, has some time of controls of who and how one can drive in the downtown area. We parked in one of the remote parking lots and walked into town. Rome, Italy, has some kind of controls for driving in the city center. We drove to the closest subway station, parked our car for a fee, and rode public transportation into the city. I am not sure that we have reached the congestion that those cities have. We are getting really close.

    • Although I’m from SoCal, I was living in London when congestion charging was introduced, and it was great! People who didn’t HAVE to drive there stopped, which provided more room for those who did, as well as greatly speeding up buses. The conditions were much improved for those who had to drive, so it became worth paying more. Even the taxi drivers were pleased by not constantly being mired in traffic. The money raised went toward new buses and other public transit, which improved noticeably. So kudos to Metro, and it’s time for the elected leaders to show some spine and convince Angelenos of the many advantages to congestion charging.

      • KB, from my friends in London have told me just what you said, at first it worked, but now congestion is right back or worse than where it was. It has essentially priced the poor out. People that are driving that do for so fun still do, but it’s only the rich now that do so.

  5. on one hand, If congesten pricing were to be attempted to be put here, in L.A., I think that there might be an uprising because we have Measure R, Measure M, the Gas Tax and, in some areas, very poor transportation.
    On the other hand, if it reduces the amount of single occupancy vehicles, then I might be for it. It would have to include ALL Freeways running through the downtown area of L.A. BEFORE I could support such an idea.
    I doubt that Caltrans would allow that to happen, and if they did, they would want a very large chunk of money.
    BEFORE we consider the idea of conjesten pricing, we should explore ALL other forms of funding. I DO NOT AGREE that Metro should ever have totally
    free fares as it encourges all the gang bangerw, homeless, and could therefore threaten the whole system and the safety of all of us who ride it ABSOLUTELY NO FREE FARES!!!!!

  6. It’s great that Metro is looking at how to increase revenues. But I found the analysis of where Metro can cut costs to be sorely lacking in the reports from the last couple of months. Why was there no analysis of the cost of some of Metro’s policies (such as local hire, DBE, wage floors, etc.)? I understand that some of these policies are in place to be eligible for federal funding, but some are not required to receive federal funds. Metro always blames things that are out of its control (tariffs), some of which is certainly fair, but never looks inwards. There have been countless board meetings where a new policy is implemented that will have a real effect on costs, but no Board member ever asks about that and that failure is shameful.

    The cause of this failure is that the Board’s membership is too concerned with politics (the reason why we are building rail lines in sparse areas out to the County line instead of in dense central LA) rather than efficiency. To compound this, Board members are obsessed with protecting projects in “their” areas. But guess what, in your capacity as a Board member you represent all of LA and improved service options in the dense part of the city make travel across the entire region easier. Because of this focus on politics first, you get inefficient projects chosen and prices than are higher than required–this is a long term recipe for disaster and is why Metro, even after passing two recent sales tax measures, isn’t able to quickly build the capital projects this county needs.

    • RIGHT OF WAYS COSTLY TO ACQUIRE: Metro has been building trains where they already have access to or own a right of way. Gold Line follows the old Santa Fe rail route thru Pasadena and on to Claremont and Montclair. The Expo line does the same following the Pacific Electric Route from DTLA to Santa Monica. The Blue Line follows the original Pacific Electric (the first to be built) from DTLA to Long Beach. The Orange Line Busway does the same in the San Fernando Valley, following the P.E. right of way from North Hollywood to Chatsworth. The only exceptions are the Red/Purple subway which was extremely costly to build and continues to be. The green line is in the center of the Century Fwy and ROW was planned with CalTrans. Building in other areas is very costly because the ROW must be purchased or acquired thru eminent domain, a very costly and lengthy process.

  7. It is like we are going back to the city-states of the Middle Ages when you had to pay to enter a town. Perhaps we need a yellow vest movement here like in France.

  8. Simply is that no one wants to pay for the infrastructure and its replacement, operations, and maintenance…Building maybe…OBTW if the Sunset Corridor (101-SStJunction) was fully developed BY-RIGHT it would increase by 200-300% in Floor Area and presumably require 200% in infrastructure capacities… so NO MORE CURB PARKING…TRAVEL LANES WOULD BE FOR 1-2 REVERSIBLE BUS LANES FOR THE COMMUTE AND NOISE…TRIPLE PANED WINDOWS…

  9. This congestion pricing is not about congestion relief but about revenue. Taking already paid for HOV lanes and now charging to use them and to charge to enter the center city would sure change the incentives on how we choose to commute. This is not right or moral. Measure R and M plus SB 1 are bringing in a lot of funding for transit. But is poorly designed bike lanes and traffic calming helping traffic or transit? The transit that we now have is very poorly run. Until fare enforcement is an impotent part of the way the MTA operates, many riders are choosing to drive and avoid transit at all cost. Smelly homeless relieve themselves at stations and even on trains and ride all day. After all it is nicer to be on a conditioned train in the weather. If we want to get people out of their cars and on to trains the incentive system will need some reworking. Can we have ticket inspection on most trains for safety and encourage paying of the fare? Congestion pricing will not get drivers out of their cars and onto transit until we have safe clean public transit.

    • I understand everyone’s frustration with the homeless issue in our region and I know issues raised in this space are real. I’m also guessing that many of the homeless are frustrated, too. While some of these issues are difficult, I would encourage folks to write about them in a way that is as compassionate as possible. Thanks,

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  10. I think that this could work. If you’re concerned about transport equity, I would suggest that the way to go would be to start with freeway corridors that are duplicated by Metrolink/Metro Rail. (i.e. the 10 from Downtown to Santa Monica being duplicated by the Expo Line, the 101 from the 5 to the 134/170 being duplicated by the Red Line, or the 5 from Norwalk to just past the 5/10/101/60 interchange being duplicated by the Metrolink Orange County Line).

  11. On Congestion Pricing – I recall a time years ago (broke and working temp gigs to survive), where I needed to drive my car to interviews where I hoped my parking was validated. For many of my assignments there was no validation, and you want to get to an assignment and/or interview as soon as possible. What you’re saying is, if you pay then you get access. If you cannot afford to pay then you’re screwed.

  12. I heard that State of Oregon has a law that limits the size of a city, aimed to counter urban sprawling. I guess we may need something similar here. Also, rather than set up toll on freeways, maybe we should consider to tear down some freeways instead? In addition, maybe we can also consider to change the real estate tax rate in certain area of the state? For example, in LA area, for single family home with value under $1MM (or some other threshold), keep the current tax rate of 1%; for single family home with value above $1MM, increase the rate to 1.05%; and for apartments and condos, lower the tax rate to 0.9%. Those rates come randomly, I didn’t do any calculation. I just want to give a very general idea. I know no one likes to involve the state government for local matters. If you feel whatever I said above makes no sense, ignore me please.

  13. T.Z. we have Proposition 13 that was passed several years ago because the greedy Democrats were taxing people out of their homes with ever rising property taxes. As I understand it, they are at it again attempting to circumvent Proposition 13 with some new schemes in hope of making us all homeless.

    Another example of their greed is what we pay per gallon for gasoline. With both the Federal and State Taxes combined we pay in excess of 66 cents per gallon. That is three time as much than what I paid for a gallon of gas when I started driving. Will ever end?

  14. A good first step would be to see the effectiveness of the HOT lanes (110/10 freeways) and how it has impacted transit. I am a commuter on a Foothill Transit Express bus daily and travel times have increased rapidly, especially along the 10 freeway segment between El Monte and the 710 freeway. Often times it is just too many cars in the ExpressLanes as the junction at 710 is a complete nightmare most mornings, with traffic backed up in the ExpressLanes for more than a mile due to two lanes merging into one. One solution that comes to mind: make the stretch on the 10 fwy express lanes between 710 and Alameda bus-only. his will help improve travel time (especially during rush hour) on Silver Line/Metro 487, 489/Sliver Streak/FT commuter buses and thus provide people more incentive to take transit in from the San Gabriel Valley. Thus, people will see a decrease in travel time.

  15. Need a multi-pronged approach….
    Congestion Destination Area – NewYorkCity approach – Increase parking fees ($15-25/day-sp/ $140/week), Area-entry premium-transponders, $500+&TowedAway for all parked cars..
    Congestion Route/Corridor….Car/Van Pools2-3/car, 7-10p/van, Bus 40p/bus Only….charge more $1/mil for cars
    Provide ParkNRides at LACity boundaries or along east side of LA River = mixed use…Pkg./Comm./Resid.
    West side more of problem
    Congestion Origin… Now-Preferential Parking Permits, get home before everyone else, park in your driveway..in your garage??
    Go for shuttles within 500ft of residences…regional buses (e.g., DASH) for 1-3sq mi and connecting to ParkNRides

    All funds go to ZERO FEE BUSES – eliminate curbside parking….reduce driveways onto any 3+lane streets

    • I congratulat you one being wealthy and having off street parking! Maybe you should learn how millions of real Angeles live. Many of us would have to pay to drive and park and live in our own neighborhoods, something most cannot afford. Most Angeles have no extra money at the end of the month. The average income is below the national level, although LA is one of the most expensive places to live in the nation. Why don’t people ride buses? They are unpleasant, very inconvenient and, sometimes, dangerous. Talk about time wasted in cars doesn’t acknowledge that the same trip by public transportation would take dramatically longer. A public transportation system comparable to NY City will take several decades to complete here in the LA area, if it is even possible. What if you need to go to many different places and need to bring/carry groceries or whatever you might want to bring or buy? As for walking, biking, scooters, etc., those are great if you are young, in-shape, have no health issues, disabilities, even minor ones, have no children and are fortunate enough to live and work in the same neighborhood. Policies like congestion pricing just make life more difficult for average people, while making life easier for those with chauffeurs. These kinds of policies are slowly driving middle class and working people out of our area. Eventually, as is rapidly becoming true in places like NY City, just the very well off and those too poor to leave their impoverished neighborhoods will be left. So what should be done? While, for starters, maybe we don’t need ’28’ projects. Next, we just raised the fuel tax and other driving related fees and have passed numerous transit propositions and taxes. What is going on with all that money? Next, to curb pollution, we need to switch to hybrid and/or other highly fuel efficient vehicles , asap, then, gradually to vehicles not reliant on fossil fuels. If their is not enough money to support truly needed changes, we should explore other funding mechanisms. The wealthy benefit the most from a strong economy and should pay more to support it.

  16. I have replied to about 3 different sources on this issue, so please forgive my short summary on this one. My name is Campbell Sadeghy so feel free to see my comments on this issue on Urbanized LA and a response directly on the article I will try to get posted as I have copied it to my notes.

    Short and simple answer: no. I don’t support any kind of fee to enter a neighborhood or business district and I don’t support congestion pricing on freeways(assuming you mean all lanes will be tolled).

    I have several problems with this. Number one, first and foremost: I support mass transit and increased bicycle infrastructure. But new freeways and more lanes added to existing freeways will need to be a part of the solution as will many other ideas as well.

    Secondly, I support tolled roads, just not interstates nor existing ones that are free. I also support the addition of tolled lanes(such as HOT lanes) so as long as every tolled lane that is added sees a free general purpose(GP) lane that is added as well. This means if the 405 is proposed to see 2 high occupancy tolled(HOT) lanes each way added that 1) those lanes either convert an HOV lane or are new lanes entirely(no converting an existing GP lane into HOT) and 2) they add 2 free to use GP lanes as part of the same project; no exceptions.

    I’m also very critical of the 28 by 28 plan as I’d love to see expidited projects; some simple math isn’t adding up. Measure M provides 120 billion in sales tax. SB-1 provides another 50 billion. We also have an HSR project costing 100 billion that needs to be scrapped but that’s another conversation for another day. Why are we needing to collect even more money from car drivers to fund 28 by 28? Something isn’t right here.

    There are several conspiracies that have undoubtedly ran through my mind but, again, another topic for another day. The answer from me is a huge no on any congestion driving or tolls on drivers especially if it finds mass transit.