As New York City gets ready implement congestion pricing, interest in the idea is surging in the California statehouse.
Some 3,000 miles away from our fair city, the New York borough of Manhattan is poised to roll out the first congestion pricing system in a U.S. city. The New York Times notes that similar systems charging drivers more to enter busy areas during rush hour are utilized in London, Singapore, and Stockholm. State senator Scott Wiener wants to see it here in California too, as KPIX/CBS SF reports that he’s calling for rush hour congestion tolls in select cities in California.
“We already have a form of congestion pricing,” Sen. Wiener told KPIX. “If you cross the Bay Bridge during rush hour, it’s higher toll. That’s congestion pricing.”
It should be noted that Wiener’s proposal is not a bill yet, nor even a draft. He simply brought up the topic in an interview. But Wiener did co-author a similar bill in 2018, which died in committee, and he may introduce this legislation again.
We still have very few details about how these congestion pricing models would work — even in New York which is about to approve one. The Times simply describes the pending New York City version as “new electronic tolls in place for drivers entering the busiest stretches of Manhattan.” But we can look to Sen. Wiener’s previous 2018 congestion pricing measure to see that certain cities would get permission to place a driving tax on specific areas, ironically described as “Go Zones,” and that Sup. Aaron Peskin would have been absolutely delighted to pass a bill implementing these in San Francisco.
Anti-congestion pricing posters... pic.twitter.com/TGy3Ot24R2— Rachel Holliday Smith (@rachelholliday) March 21, 2019
The California version, Wiener says, would be a pilot program for whichever cities want to opt in, and revenue from the tolls would go to fund public transit.
Sen. Wiener certainly excels at bringing attention to causes he feels require legislative tinkering and overhaul, but this one may paradoxically prove to be something of a poverty tax. “It definitely impacts working-class people the most,” New York assemblyperson Aileen Gunther told the Times, referring to that city's version of congestion pricing, and offering a preview of the possible debate here should congestion pricing be proposed in Sacramento.