Metro Board Votes [UPDATE: Mayor Garcia Voted "Yes"] To Pursue "Feasibility Study" Leading To Future Vote To Impose "Congestion Pricing" (Tolls/Charges On Drivers Using Certain Congested Freeway Sections To Deter Prime-Time Use),
|(Feb. 28, 2019, 10:35 p.m.) -- Roughly twelve hours after the fact, LB Mayor Robert Garcia hadn't mentioned on his Facebook or Twitter pages whether participated or voted on the matter, but earlier today (Feb. 28), L.A. County's Metro Board of Directors (of which Garcia is a member) voted without dissent to begin a "feasibility study" as a prerequisite to imposing toll charges on drivers along portions of L.A. County freeways based on level of congestion and time of day that it calls "congestion relief pricing" (creating an interesting abbreviation: CRP.)
[March 1 UPDATE: Metro Board clerk's office indicates vote was unanimous and included LB Mayor Garcia voting "yes." end UPDATE]
The CRP plan is part of what Metro calls "Re-Imagining of LA County: Mobility, Equity and the Environment," a plan it says will reduce traffic, improve transit and reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases. A Metro published blog ("The Source") says the Board decoupled the toll charges from previously considered use to complete eight of twenty-eight costly transportation projects in connection with the 2028 L.A. Olympics.
L.A. County voters weren't asked and haven't voted to approve charging drivers who rely using on certain freeway routes daily (and for many were part of their decisions to live where they live.) There was no Long Beach City Council discussion of "congestion pricing"; neither Mayor Garcia nor any Councilmember(s) agendized the issue for public discussion before today's Metro vote.
|The Metro Board vote to authorize the feasibility study (leading to future implementing vote perhaps in the latter half of 2020) came from Metro's 14-member Board comprised of L.A. County's Supervisors, the Mayors of L.A., Long Beach and electeds/appointees from other area cities (here) listed here. Metro's blog says the "Re-Imagining" plan stemmed from a 28 x 2028 [Olympics projects] plan, the voter-approved Measure M sales tax ($120 billion for mobility projects) and a "Vision 2028" plan that the Metro Board adopted in 2018.
The 12 to 24 month CRP "feasibility study" will now decide where to test "congestion relief pricing" and examine three ways to implement it: a fee on the number of miles driven by a vehicle (called VMT) or a fee for entering a certain area (cordon pricing) or fees for traveling in congested corridors (corridor pricing).
The Board motion also directed Metro staff to create a panel experts to oversee the feasibility study and its development in ways Metro will ultimately decide are "fair" and "equitable to all income levels." Metro's blog acknowledges that charging drivers is "regressive" [in the sense that charging drivers to use area freeways would be felt most strongly by lower income users] but opines that the plan will advance progressive benefits (citing improved or free transit, less pollution and fewer greenhouse gas emissions.) Metro staff has estimated that the CRP charges paid by drivers could enable Metro to consider "free" transit for all and expand transit options.
A subsequent Board vote (perhaps in late 2020) will be required to launch the CRP program in peak times along freeway portions with chronically bad traffic.
Metro's Board also approved pursuing a feasibility study on imposing fees on electric scooters ("New Mobility devices") and firms like Uber and Lyft ("Transportation Network Companies") that use public streets and sidewalks (on grounds TNCs contribute to traffic and pollution.) Metro's blog says New York, Washington, D.C. and Chicago already impose fees on Uber and Lyft. Under a recent Long Beach City Council vote, city staff is developing a plan for future Council approval that would include such charges and expand the number of LB-allowed scooters.
"Congestion pricing: surfaced at the December 9, 2018 Metro Board meeting, just weeks after voters statewide defeated a petition-initiated measure (opposed by Metro) that would have repealed a Sacramento-imposed gasoline tax increase. At Metro's Jan. 24, 2019 meeting [at which L.A. Mayor Garcetti and LB Mayor Garcia were absent, attending a Washngton, D.C. meeting of the "U.S. Conference of Mayors"], Metro CEO Phil Washington acknowledged congestion pricing would be (in his term) a "radical" change and reiterated that it might make Metro transit "free" for users [paid by some drivers.] [LBREPORT.com comment: "congestion pricing" would guarantee that drivers would pay tolls/charge with no guarantee that future Metro transit would be "free" for users; just as "freeways" built with taxpayer dollars may no longer remain "free" for users.]
A post-WWII desire to avoid east-coast density and its transit-dependent development encouraged less dense L.A.-area development welcoming individual choices (free of meeting transit schedules) enabled by personal vehicle use. Today, the L.A. area's once-open freeways are often near-gridlocked and state and local government bodies now also cite global warming in adopting/imposing policies to enable transit-related density, discourage vehicle miles traveled and variously push the public to use government-offered transit (like Metro.)
A foundational concept of "freeways" was to avoid toll charges (that fund east coast turnpikes) with freeways funded from other taxpayer sources. Today, taxpayers still pay for freeways but also pay in non-monetary terms in time spent in clogged/sometimes gridlocked traffic. Congestion pricing aims to deter drivers from using high demand routes at high demand times.
In purely economic terms, under the current system drivers pay the same amount to use a freeway at 3 a.m. as at 5 p.m. and price doesn't reflect increased demand. But increasing price to deter demand would impact different users in different ways (different "equities.") For example, gardeners and truckers have no alternative transit options. Others who live in suburban areas currently have no practical alternative transit options; they chose to live in outlying suburbs with the expectation of using freeways to get to and from work centers.
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