Metro Board Delays Discussion To February Of "Congestion Pricing," Could Impose Tolls/Charges On Drivers Using Certain Congested Freeway Routes To Deter Prime-Time Use, Go Beyond Eight Metro-Desired Olympics Projects And Bring Metro Millions Beyond For Future Transit Projects Feb. Board action -- with Mayor Garcia possibly voting -- could enable 1-2 yr "feasibility study" for "pilot projects" in currently unidentified locations,
Feb. Board action -- with Mayor Garcia possibly voting -- could enable 1-2 yr "feasibility study" for "pilot projects" in currently unidentified locations,
|(Jan. 24, 2019, 11:31 p.m.) -- As carried LIVE on LBREPORT.com's front page, the L.A. County Metro Board of Directors voted to continue (postpone) discussion on "congestion pricing" -- imposing tolls/charges on drivers to deter prime-time congested fwy use -- to February with discussion at that time of thorny matters including multiple "equity" issues in the concept (including impacts on low income communities, workers relying on freeway transportation, diverse geographic impacts.) In February, Metro staff plans to ask the Metro Board to approve a 12-24 month "feasibility study" of "congestion pricing" with "pilot projects" to follow on routes in areas not yet described publicly.
Absent from the Jan. 24, 2019 Metro Board meeting were LB Mayor Robert Garcia and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, who were attending a meeting of the non-governmental advocacy group "US Conference of Mayors" in Washington, DC.
The issue surfaced at the December 9, 2018 Metro Board meeting, just weeks after voters defeated a petition-initiated measure (opposed by Metro) that would have repealed a Sacramento-imposed gasoline tax increase. Metro staff acknowledged on December 9 and on Jan. 24 that it doesn't have funding to deliver 8 of 28 projects for the 2028 L.A. Olympics that Metro wants and delivered a presentation on "congestion pricing." In its Jan. 24, 2019 agenda item, Metro staff rebranded the 2028 Olympics item as "The Re-imagining of LA County: Mobility, Equity, And the Environment (Twenty-Eight by '28 motion response)" and said it doesn't favor bridging a "funding gap" for the 8 Olympics-related projects -- estimated to cost $26.2 billion -- with fare increases or by changing Metro's debt structure. For that reason, Metro staff says it "went beyond" to "broaden the discussion" to include "re-imagining" L.A. County transportation with congestion pricing.
Metro's agendized staff report acknowledged that congestion pricing would go beyond "28 [projects] for the '28 Olympics" to include "solutions for the eradication of congestion in LA County, drastically reducing the region's carbon footprint and combating climate change, increasing transit frequency and capacity, realizing equity, and being in a position to be the first major region in the world that could offer free transit services. So, staff chooses to think bigger than the original Motion and rebrand our endeavor as "The Re-imagining of LA County: Mobility, Equity, and the Environment."
Metro staff indicated "congestion pricing" could generate more than $100 billion that Metro could spend on multiple transit projects. During Jan. 24 Board discussion, 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.] [Opponents would likely note that "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.]
The "re-imagining" congestion pricing item is now expected to come to the Metro Board in February, at which time LB Mayor Garcia (A Metro Board member) would have the ability to make motions and cast votes. However to date, there's been no Long Beach City Council discussion of "congestion pricing"...and it's not currently clear whether Mayor Garcia or any Councilmember(s) will agendize the issue for public discussion and a Council voted action on the proposed policy.
[Scroll down for further.]
Several Metro Board members voiced "concerns;" some said they want to "know more"...but none explicitly opposed "congestion pricing." L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn (whose district includes LB) moved to have the entire discussion continued (postponed) to Metro's February Board meeting (at which Metro staff indicates it will seek voted direction from the Board.) Supervisor Hahn explicitly asked Metro staff to meet individually with Metro Boardmembers to answer questions before the February public meeting. Hahn's motion passed 10-0 (Garcetti, Garcia, Ridley-Thomas absent.)
A post-WWII desire to avoid east-coast density and its transit-dependent development encouraged less dense L.A.-area development welcoming individual cboices (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.)
In its agendizing materials, Metro staff described three ways to impose the "congestion pricing" tolls/charges:
A foundational concept of "freeways" was to avoid tolls (which 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.
As part of its Jan. 24 actions, Metro's Board also voted to (1) delay approving a list of "sacred" projects (whose funding wouldn't be jeopardized by the 28 Olympics-related projects) and (2) authorize Metro to pursue a White House Task Force to secure federal funding for mobility projects for the Olympics. Early in his administration, President Trump indicated he favors infrastructure spending, but since CA went on to adopt statewide "sanctuary" policies (echoed in cities of L.A. and LB) that Trump has strongly opposed.]
In its Jan. 24 agendizing memo, Metro staff stated:
[Summary in staff agendizing memo]...Congestion Pricing - Recommend to pursue all concepts/models
Details are provided in Attachment B:
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