Esplanade closure begins February 1st

Saltzman wants congestion pricing of I-5 before widening project starts

Posted by on September 1st, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Include congestion/value pricing before the project breaks ground to ensure maxim congestion relief and overall environmental benefits.
— from a statement drafted by Commissioner Dan Saltzman’s office

Will the City of Portland sit idly by and allow new lanes to be added to a freeway in the urban core? Not if the commissioner in charge of the transportation bureau has his way.

Prior to a public hearing on the Central City 2035 Plan slated for Thursday (September 7th), City Commissioner Dan Saltzman will issue a statement about the Interstate 5/Rose Quarter freeway project. According to his Senior Policy Director Matt Grumm, Saltzman has been watching the dialogue on the project unfold over the past week. Among the work they’ve done to understand the issue is to meet with leaders of the No More Freeway Expansions coalition — which includes Joe Cortright, an economist and expert on congestion pricing.

While Grumm hasn’t said Saltzman will agree to remove the freeway project from the Transportation System Plan (as No More Freeways wants), he will do something that many feel is just as important: Require congestion pricing before the tractors roll in and construction starts on the new lanes.

Here’s a snip of an early draft of the statement Saltzman’s office is working on:

Include congestion/value pricing before the project breaks ground to ensure maximum congestion relief and overall environmental benefits

Congestion/Value pricing is a proven congestion and carbon reduction strategy and it is an essential part of the project. The recently passed HB 2017 – the state transportation funding package – mandates that value pricing be implemented as part of the I-5 Broadway/Weidler Interchange project. Not only can value pricing relieve congestion and help our region lead on climate, but it can be implemented with social equity as a founding principle. Congestion/Value pricing can help bring improved mobility and pricing solutions to those traveling through the corridor. We are working closely with the state of Oregon and multiple regional partners to evaluate how to ensure this tool brings the most benefits to our city and state.


Many local electeds, insiders and transportation policy leaders are saying that the time has come for Portland to try congestion pricing. And given the politics and context of this I-5 project, it could be a great opportunity to implement a pricing pilot project. Cortright is a strong believer that congestion pricing should happen before any shovels hit the ground on I-5 at the Rose Quarter. He points to examples in other cities where lanes were added before tolling was implemented only to see traffic — and with it, the need for the infrastructure — drop significantly.

ODOT has been issued a mandate by House Bill 2017 to come up with a “value pricing” program by next year. Skeptics recall that the 2009 transportation bill also called for a pricing program, yet it never moved forward. But this time around might be different. In a sign of their seriousness, the agency posted three new jobs just week: a “value pricing study manager“, a “value pricing project coordinator” and a “community engagement coordinator.”

Saltzman’s statement is stronger regarding the need for congestion pricing than a statement made this week by The Street Trust. While Saltzman clearly calls for “pricing before the project breaks ground,” The Street Trust said, “the project must include congestion pricing”.

If City Council is looking for a way to respond to community concerns about the I-5 project but doesn’t want to take the relatively bold action of removing it from the TSP , voting for a local ordinance that requires pricing before construction could be a politically prudent compromise.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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  • random September 1, 2017 at 2:52 pm


    Time to get the peasants off the freeways, leaving them clear for their social betters!

    Go tolls!

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    • Chris I September 1, 2017 at 3:25 pm

      Have you ridden a bus lately? The poorest people in our region do not own cars.

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    • soren September 1, 2017 at 3:32 pm

      the horror of making wealthier people pay for transit improvements!

      “…toll exemptions or toll rebates may be offered to [low-income drivers], or other forms of monetary compensation may be offered, such as tax rebates that provide reimbursment for tolls paid or income supplements. Each of these approaches has been used or considered for use in congestion-pricing programs. For example, revenues from area pricing in Central London were used in part to improve bus service into the priced area, thereby enhancing transportation services to low-income groups and other users of those systems.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty September 2, 2017 at 12:27 am

        I’d rather see a transit fare exemption.

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        • Charles Ross September 2, 2017 at 12:05 pm

          I’ve thought that also, but . . . The result of fare-free transit would be the homeless moving on board the transit system and calling it ‘home’. A tweak of that idea would be to feed passes through employers. I’m sure that’s done now to a limited extent.

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        • soren September 2, 2017 at 12:37 pm

          Thanks to the amazing work of BRU, OPAL, and others we are moving in this direction (despite years of resistance from our regressive and undemocratic public tranportation agency):

          Our transit system is on the brink of meeting our demands, reducing fares for low-income people by more than 75%. It is a clear demonstration of what happens when our community comes together to build people power. It’s direct action organizing, smart campaign planning, and dedication to the cause.

          Our work continues. We will continue to organize to meet rider priorities.

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          • Middle of the road guy September 2, 2017 at 3:07 pm

            If planning were democratic, we’d have wider roads. Most people want more capacity.

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            • 9watts September 2, 2017 at 5:31 pm

              haha. funny. joke.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty September 2, 2017 at 6:11 pm

                It’s funny because it’s true.

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              • 9watts September 2, 2017 at 6:24 pm

                But to cherry pick planning for a dose of democracy is absurd. If transportation choice were democratic we wouldn’t have the highway trust fund or the interstate hwy system or oil wars or airbags….

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              • Mr. Know It All September 3, 2017 at 12:52 am

                I’m pretty sure those folks in the 50s would have voted for freeways. AND today, given the choice of a) remove our freeways; or b) keep them; or c) expand them; that voters would choose c or b – probably c.

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              • 9watts September 3, 2017 at 9:31 am

                “those folks”

                Are you including those black folks and others whose neighborhoods were demolished to make way for those freeways? This topic has a pretty complex history; I’d be loath to make sweeping predictions about what ‘those folks’ would have voted for in 1910, 1940, 1970 or 2000, without exploring the context, the way power worked then, how the automobile came to be the dominant mode, etc. Peter Norton’s Fighting Traffic might be a useful place to start, but there are hundreds of other books on this subject.

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              • Mr. Know It All September 3, 2017 at 11:40 pm


                By “those folks” I’m referring to American voters in the 1950s when Eisenhower pushed for freeways. Leftists will commonly divide Americans into subgroups, as you did, but I don’t do that. Just referring to Americans.

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              • ConcordiaCyclist September 4, 2017 at 5:10 pm

                “Leftists will commonly divide Americans into subgroups”
                Yes, because the right wing just won’t do that and subgroups clearly don’t exist in our homogeneous society.

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            • soren September 2, 2017 at 10:13 pm

              the trimet board controls a metro area system with a budget of $1.2 billion and the power to tax metro-area residents. can you explain why you are opposed to democratic selection of board members?

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty September 2, 2017 at 10:57 pm

                No fair reading of his comment suggested he opposes election of TriMet representatives.

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              • Mr. Know It All September 3, 2017 at 1:01 am

                Agree with H,K he’s referring to what the majority of citizens who live in the metro area would vote for IF we made transportation decisions via democracy. He’s absolutely correct.

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              • Middle of the road guy September 3, 2017 at 2:05 pm

                Soren, I gave no idea how you managed to make that assumption. But it took some serious work to get there so I applaud your creativity

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              • soren September 3, 2017 at 10:05 pm

                my post was about trimet full stop.

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              • Middle of the road guy September 4, 2017 at 1:39 am

                Did I say I was opposed?

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              • soren September 6, 2017 at 12:10 pm

                “no fair”

                they replied to my comment about trimet. who exactly was i supposed to assume they were referring to?

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            • Chris I September 3, 2017 at 6:00 am

              Most people are dumb.

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              • Mr. Know It All September 3, 2017 at 11:42 pm

                Run for office and let them know that.

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  • Ed September 1, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    Need to have a plan for the roads where traffic is going to divert to like Interstate, Williams and MLK.

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    • SD September 1, 2017 at 3:40 pm

      Wouldn’t the plan be tolling before those exits?

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    • soren September 1, 2017 at 4:02 pm

      Just as there is evidence that adding capacity induces more driving there is also evidence that removing lanes (or not building new ones in some cases) reduces driving:

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      • 9watts September 1, 2017 at 5:15 pm

        Related to that, there are places which implemented congestion pricing, tolls, etc., and then discovered they didn’t actually need the capacity they thought they did because the elasticity of demand for travel on those roads meant the congestion pricing solved (at a fraction of the cost) what the widening was going to accomplish.

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        • Middle of the road guy September 2, 2017 at 3:09 pm

          More congestion means more amazon shopping for next…and that money often leaves the community.

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          • Middle of the road guy September 2, 2017 at 3:09 pm

            Oops. Me…not next

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          • Chris I September 3, 2017 at 6:03 am

            What is your community includes an Amazon distribution center? (Troutdale)

            And I shouldn’t have to remind you that nearly all of the money spent on gas in Portland leaves the community. Station owners take a very small cut.

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            • Middle of the road guy September 3, 2017 at 2:08 pm

              No guarantee that orders will come from there. I hope they do once it is built.

              And I spend more on products than I do on fuel.

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      • random September 1, 2017 at 7:25 pm

        Good point.

        Just imagine how much driving would be reduced if you simply closed all the freeways in Portland.

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        • billyjo September 2, 2017 at 10:16 am

          but people are just too dense to get this point. Let’s knock down all the freeways, it can solve all the problems. People will stop moving here and people will leave. See, we didn’t need the freeways, nobody is driving anywhere! The 6 people still iving in Portland will be able to bike anywhere they want!

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          • Dan A September 2, 2017 at 1:38 pm

            Name-calling doesn’t help you, and neither does hyperbole.

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    • rick September 1, 2017 at 4:27 pm

      Extend the MAX Orange line to the Yellow line and finally build light rail to Vancouver. Would that private rail road bridge work well over the Columbia River ?

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      • J_R September 2, 2017 at 2:46 pm

        Freight rail lines and MAX cars are simply incompatible. Did you ever notice the overhead wires that provide the power to MAX? Railroad cars are taller than those wires! Besides that, the BNSF bridge crossing the Columbia River just west of the Interstate Bridge to Vancouver is nearly at capacity and can’t handle more trains.

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    • Racer X September 1, 2017 at 5:17 pm

      …and I-205

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  • J_R September 1, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    The devil is in the details. While I generally support congestion pricing, I am concerned about the unintended consequences of it. Impact on the poor, diversion to local streets, relocation of suppliers and jobs to suburban areas more distant from toll roads (making those jobs less accessible for bicyclists and transit riders), and a few other things come to mind.

    Saltzman’s “line in the sand” at this early stage does not inspire my confidence in getting it done right. Congestion pricing is complicated.

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    • Chris I September 1, 2017 at 3:31 pm

      There needs to be a clear connection between congestion pricing and support for poor commuters. If we add congestion pricing, the funding needs to go towards improved MAX/Bus service. Ideally, the 3rd lane on all urban freeways would be a HOT (high-occupancy toll) lane, which would enable faster express bus service from the suburbs. The income from tolling would help fund increased service frequencies, and more frequency would be available because the busses won’t be stuck in as much traffic.

      There will be losers, though. Those that commute extreme distances, or live in locations with no transit access. People are very adaptive, however. People will make lifestyle changes as needed. Extreme commuting and congestion have external costs, and we can’t ignore these. Every Portland citizen pays for these commuters in pollution, travel delays, and road repairs.

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  • Dave September 1, 2017 at 3:27 pm

    Congestion pricing might work better in a city with a more firmly defined center and lacking the suburban escape routes that businesses might have. It needs a captive audience, in other words.

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    • Todd Boulanger September 1, 2017 at 5:19 pm

      The multiple river choke points help…as far as North-South or East-West flows…

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  • Evan September 1, 2017 at 3:29 pm

    This is awesome. Let’s make sure the pricing scheme is helpful and equitable!

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    • rick September 1, 2017 at 4:24 pm

      An additional fee for metal-studded car tires, right ?

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  • Mike Sanders September 1, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    One well known design has toll lanes using the EZ Pass system (very popular in the East & Midwest; Texas has something similar called TX Tag) running on the inside lanes with only a handful of exits, while the mainline carries the thru traffic to all the local exits. Well known examples include I-10 in Los Angeles and Houston, the Dulles Airport connector outside Washington, DC (inside toll lanes go to the airport only, no local exits, while outside free lanes bypass the airport and continue into the far western MD suburbs) and I-80 leaving NYC. Los Angeles has HOV lanes on several freeways designed much the same way.

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    • John Lascurettes September 1, 2017 at 4:26 pm

      All of the SF Bay Area bridges (and a few express bypasses and interchanges) have the EZ-Pass system. I was still living there when they first started doing it almost 20 years go. Now, when I go down to visit, most residents have one, and for those of us just visiting and still paying cash, it actually still seems faster to get through the toll than it ever was before it was implemented.

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      • Racer X September 1, 2017 at 5:21 pm

        I think Oregon (and Mississippi) must be the last states without tolling or HOT lanes…

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  • SD September 1, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    This is great. Measures that limit the SOV burden, generate revenue and mitigate pollution in the urban center are beneficial for everyone, especially people of lower SES. Next step, real investments in SOV alternatives.

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    • Mr. Know It All September 3, 2017 at 1:19 am

      SD: “…Next step, real investments in SOV alternatives.”

      Actually, the next step would be to come up with funds to pay for it, THEN you can make the investments.

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  • bikeninja September 1, 2017 at 3:50 pm

    The worry about the effect of tolls on the poor is old history. In the last 40 years of decreasing working class wages, increasing costs of living and the skyrocketing costs of automobile ownership the poor ,for all practical purposes ,have been priced out of commuting in cars.Only a draconian ,robbing of peter to pay paul, keeps this going. Unless we change something within our neoliberal economic system, it will soon be impossible to ignore that automobile transportation is not cost effective for the lower earning 50% of american society.There is no possible way that private car ownership will become cheaper in the future so we must focus on sensible real estate development policy, rent control legislation, and improved mass transit. The costs of owning and driving cars is increasingly out of reach for many of us and will be much more so in the near future. Lets either have an economic revolution or build a european quality mass transit and bike transportation system and stop reliving the 1950’s. Congestion tolling will help provide the revenue to move in to the real future we have ahead of us.

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    • B. Carfree September 1, 2017 at 4:16 pm

      This week’s Monday Roundup had a blurb from AAA that put the average cost of car ownership at $8500/yr, with only $1500 being fuel costs. Someone at the lower end of the SES who chooses to drive in an average way would need to dedicate something like $11k of income to the car (to account for taxes on said income). In the end, it’s just not going to pencil out, especially since the depreciation only comes due intermittently (when the car must be replaced).

      I’m reminded of being in a car with my boss back in the late 1980s when CA had a nickel a gallon gas tax on the ballot. He was insisting that this would be too much for poor people to pay. I had him exit the freeway and drive along the roads I used to bicycle in to our lab. I pointed out the hundreds of people on bikes, walking and waiting for the bus and explained that the poor don’t have cars. His suburban SoCal upbringing was rocked by that notion.

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      • random September 1, 2017 at 7:33 pm

        “This week’s Monday Roundup had a blurb from AAA that put the average cost of car ownership at $8500/yr, with only $1500 being fuel costs.”

        Actually, that’s the cost of owning a new vehicle, with accompanying huge depreciation costs. Buy a car and keep it for twenty years, and the economics look very different.

        My family owns two cars, and I promise you that the cost of operating them is not $17,000 a year. Not even close.

        People in outer east Portland driving beater cars are not spending $11,000 a year to operate those vehicles.

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        • B. Carfree September 2, 2017 at 10:36 am

          Funny thing about averages: there are usually some values well below the average. I actually get paid to own a car (weird insurance thing), so I’m over $8500 off the average. I’m also not driving the 15k miles that is average either. I have friends who spend over $15k/yr per car. In the end, averages are just that, averages.

          Of course if one chooses (often through financial necessity) to make use of a very old vehicle purchased used one can certainly stay well below the average outlay for owning a motor vehicle. However, those who choose this route often find other “costs” in the form of a lack of reliability. A properly funded and operated public transit system doesn’t suffer from reliability issues except under the most extreme circumstances, and not much is going to be moving when the big one hits anyway.

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          • random September 2, 2017 at 10:56 am

            Again, the $8500 number is the cost for owning and operating a new car, where you take a big financial hit in depreciation just driving the car off the dealer’s lot.

            I own a couple of fairly new cars, and my cost per car isn’t half that, including depreciation.

            You claimed that a low-income person is spending $11K pre-tax to operate a car – that simply isn’t true.

            You tell a resident of outer east Portland that it’s costing him $700 a month to own and operate his 2008 Toyota Corolla, and he isn’t going to believe anything else you tell him.

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          • Mr. Know It All September 3, 2017 at 1:29 am

            Based on past history if anything gets shut down when the big one hits it will be MAX. 🙂 It already can’t run when it’s hot, or when it’s cold. 🙂

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            • BB September 5, 2017 at 2:54 pm

              Hello, he said “A properly funded and operated public transit system”. Not the sad third world transit kept in rags by the conservative wealthy keeping up the status quo that we have..

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty September 2, 2017 at 11:19 am

          These numbers are always bogus. Whenever I see someone cite them, they lose a bunch of credibility. Anyone who is concerned about money knows how to keep their costs far, far below this figure.

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          • Mr. Know It All September 3, 2017 at 2:02 am

            Exactly. Just buy a reliable used car – say 5 or 10 years old with 50-100,000 miles for about $5K to $10K (about what a fancy bike costs); preferably from the original owner; and even better if it’s from this area so it has not suffered brutal winters in other parts of the country – starting cold damages the engine faster; and road salt rusts the car. But first, when you test drive it, ask the owner to let you take it to a dealer to have it inspected and get a CARFAX on it – pay them the $150, or whatever, to look it over (that’s less than some bike shops charge for a tune-up) . Used Civics and Corollas are good. If it has a timing belt find out when that was replaced, when it needs it again, and how much it will cost to replace it. I’d avoid hybrids, due to the battery expense, but if that’s new, they might be OK. I hear there is a glut of used cars right now, but can’t verify it. After you get the car, you can probably save some money by using a shop other than the dealer – ask friends who is reasonable and does good work. Also, many minor things can be done yourself – look on youtube. Not having a car would be cheaper, but if you need one, it doesn’t need to cost even close to $8,500 per year. And don’t buy one from a fast food delivery driver! 🙂 Highway miles are easiest on the car.

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          • Chris I September 3, 2017 at 6:06 am

            The numbers are not bogus, they are an average. You know how averages work, right?

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            • 9watts September 3, 2017 at 7:36 am

              “You know how averages work, right?”

              Well I do, and I’m with Kitty. Averages can be soooo misleading.

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            • q September 3, 2017 at 9:53 am

              If you put one foot in a bucket of boiling water, and the other foot in a bucket of ice, on average you’ll be comfortable.

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            • Middle of the road guy September 3, 2017 at 2:11 pm

              The average of 99 and 1 is 50. But 50 us hardly repesentative of either.

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              • 9watts September 3, 2017 at 3:58 pm

                that depends on the distribution.

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              • Middle of the road guy September 4, 2017 at 1:40 am

                Exactly. It’s all about the context numbers provide.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty September 3, 2017 at 3:58 pm

              And yes, I know how averages work. In this case they provide no value to the analysis whatsoever.

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            • q September 3, 2017 at 5:03 pm

              If I were crossing a wide street, I’d be a lot happier to see a median than an average.

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              • B. Carfree September 3, 2017 at 6:43 pm

                Alas, the street is too full of means.

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  • encephalopath September 1, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    Congestion pricing is the ONLY solution to traffic congestion. Building capacity certainly isn’t going to fix the problem as is demonstrated over and over.

    Raise the price until the congestion disappears and use the revenue to subsidize the hell out of public transit for the people you price out of the bottom end of the market. Once you get rid of the congestion, the public transit is going to get everyone to their destination faster than if congestion were still happening. And the people you priced out of driving aren’t being forced to own and maintain a car.

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  • rick September 1, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    Spend the money and resources elsewhere besides I-5. Yes, it needs a cap over it but ODOT needs to rebuild the urban orphan highways. Hall Blvd is crumbling apart.

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  • Chris Smith September 1, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    Does this mean “include” congestion pricing in the project, or precede any construction with congestion pricing? There’s a world of difference! Language is not clear to me.

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    • John Liu
      John Liu September 1, 2017 at 8:41 pm

      Agree. Draft is ambiguous.

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    • Eric Leifsdad September 2, 2017 at 4:02 pm

      Implement congestion pricing and then plan the project (or not) based on measured results. We also need to limit cut-through traffic on surface streets (or charge the same tolls.)

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      • Mr. Know It All September 3, 2017 at 2:12 am

        Tolls on side-streets. That’s going to be popular. 🙂

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  • Stephen Keller September 1, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    Where will it kick in? At the bridge or at the rose quarter? If it is at the rose quarter, then I predict life in St. Johns is going to suffer.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu September 1, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    I think that tolling / congestion pricing / whatever you call it will have to be at a natural boundary, or there will be unstoppable cut-throughs on local streets to bypass the controls.

    Beeblebrox mentioned technology that uses license plate scanners to enforce congestion pricing without requiring traffic to pass through physical toolbooths. London uses that sort of technology. But there are legal and jurisdictional issues here that don’t exist in London, because Portland is at the border of two states. Who knows if Washington will enforce a Oregon congestion zone ticket. I don’t think the two states enforce each other’s parking tickets.

    So, put the north edge of the zone at the Columbia River. Put the south edge somewhere far enough south that there aren’t a lot of cut through alternatives, but where there actually is bad I-5 congestion.

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  • JeffS September 1, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    I continue to shake my head at you people who want to create a congestion charge to reduce driving, AND an exemption to encourage driving.

    So we have anti-car and wealth redistribution wrapped with a neat little bow.

    It’s a shame that this will cost Saltzman the election because his challengers are going to be even worse for the city.

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    • Stephan September 1, 2017 at 10:50 pm

      Isn’t he not going to seek another term?

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      • billyjo September 2, 2017 at 10:21 am

        oppose “fixing” the rose quarter area traffic nightmare, and he won’t be elected to another term.

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    • Paul September 2, 2017 at 2:03 am

      But anti car and wealth redistribution are two of my highest policy priorities!

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  • John Liu
    John Liu September 1, 2017 at 9:10 pm

    I’m realizing that we may not be all talking about the same thing.

    When we (each of us) is talking about tolls/congestion pricing, are we thinking this would be for driving 1) on just the freeways, or 2) on both freeways and on surface streets?

    And are we talking about charging for A) driving a car through the boundary of a specified zone (classic tollbooth model) or for B) driving a car anywhere within a specified zone (high tech license plate scanner model)?

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  • Charley September 1, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    I’m so glad to see Commissioner Saltzman step up like this. I am really impressed with the intelligence and courage he’s displayed. Bravo.

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  • Kittens September 2, 2017 at 11:28 am

    I’m very skeptical of congestion pricing.

    Granted, I’ve never lived in a city that had such a scheme. But it generally sets off alarms in my head as being un-democratic and simply a continuation of the hollowing out of what it means to pay taxes. We now have user fees for everything from libraries to state parks and transit to parking spots. The way our society (at least in therory) is supposed to function is that everyone pays taxes for things we all use and benefit from. This is not a private toll road or bridge authority. This sort of reminds me of the republican plan to cap social security based on income. So what happens when certain classes of people no longer participate in a system which relies on universal buy-in?

    Like it or not this scheme chips another bit off the block.

    It will not end well.

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    • daisy September 2, 2017 at 9:01 pm

      I’m aware of no user fees at Multnomah County Library. What do you have in mind?

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    • Chris I September 3, 2017 at 6:10 am

      The gas tax had not increased sufficiently to properly fund new road projects. We either find new ways to raise money, or we don’t build new roads. Technology has enabled new ways to directly charge used for their use. This is a good thing.

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  • Justin September 2, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    Can we please talk about something else? Isn’t someone installing a bike lane somewhere or something? Or the bumpy pavement on the south waterfront trail through John’s Landing? ¡Que lástima! Can we take maybe two days off the highway widening, just long enough to rest our brains for a minute?

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  • SE September 2, 2017 at 7:01 pm

    Isn’t I-5 a Federal hiway ?

    IF so, then how does PDX city council enact fees on it ?

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    • J_R September 2, 2017 at 8:32 pm

      Yes. It is actually an ODOT highway eligible for federal funding. Portland has no official role in tolls except as it relates to the regional planners process.

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    • Mr. Know It All September 3, 2017 at 2:18 am

      Locals got involved in the CRC and hosed it up so badly that it never happened. Maybe the same will occur with this project. I know let’s get 10 or 15 different entities involved in the planning phases of the project. 🙂

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    • Stephen Keller September 3, 2017 at 5:01 pm

      Maybe a reversal in thinking is called for. Instead of putting congestion pricing on the freeways, which would encourage surface street driving, put the congestion pricing on all surface streets. Leave the “free” in freeways as it were. It would certainly make cycling in the city far more enjoyable, if we all stopped and thought about it before pulling the Subaru out into public.


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      • Kyle Banerjee September 5, 2017 at 12:39 am

        Just think about it — cameras everywhere tracking all vehicles so they could be billed (though toll gates everywhere could eliminate unemployment). Sounds like heaven!

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        • Stephen Keller September 5, 2017 at 9:58 am

          Actually, I envision a chipped driver’s license that both allows starting the vehicle and interfaces with on-board systems to log where or how much the vehicle travels on public rights-of-way; billing would be based on some periodic card readout. Such a billing system doesn’t need real-time tracking, just something that is secure from tampering. It could also get by with simply tracking the number of miles traveled on controlled-roads rather than specific route details. Out-of-area drivers would need to one-time register their license plate at the control-boundary and associate it with a similarly equipped identity card. Failure to pay disables starting the car.

          Privacy advocates hate this sort of thing, preferring to lump transportation choices into the same bucket as banking or bedroom activities, but I’m not convinced that traveling over public rights-of-way is an inherently private action. If someone cares to convince me of this, I’ll revise my thinking.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty September 5, 2017 at 10:48 am

            Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts that people have the liberty to travel, reside in, and/or work in any part of the state where one pleases within the limits of respect for the liberty and rights of others.

            Assuming it is (practically) impossible to travel without using the roads, and that close government monitoring of a right undermines it, tracking individuals would violate that right.

            Reporting an “aggregate mileage” might not. But, under your scheme, you need to assume the government would not subvert the original intent and use the system for other purposes. Which is always what happens (ref. cell phone tracking to catch low level criminals).

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            • Stephen Keller September 5, 2017 at 4:23 pm

              Thanks for the pointer to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; I was unaware of the document and need to spend some time reading and pondering. Congestion pricing seems, in principle, to violate that same right, depending on how you interpret “within the limits of respect for the liberty and rights of others.” One could argue that public transport, bicycles and walking all provide unlimited access without impinging the rights of others or carrying with it undue government scrutiny. In other words, the purely personal choice to use a privately owned motor vehicle may not be covered by the intent of Article 13.

              Frankly, I’m far less concerned about direct governmental abuse than I am about the potential and temptation to monetize the data by means of corporate partnerships and the like. I can already imagine the lobbyists lining up for a look.

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty September 5, 2017 at 4:38 pm

                I could see a congestion tolling approach that is convenient, ubiquitous, and anonymous, but it would require the agency implementing it to value privacy, and be somewhat tech savvy. And there are those who would push for greater data capture and retention.

                Unfortunately, when given a new capability, law enforcement tends to expand its use into areas where it was never intended for use. There are numerous examples of this sort of function creep (tasers and cell phone location tracking, for example). Some might argue this is OK (good for fighting crime), while others (like myself) argue it is dangerous to give the security apparatus too much power. There are many historical precedents that suggest limitations on government power are wise, even if inconvenient.

                Freedom is inherently messy, and there are always tradeoffs.

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  • q September 2, 2017 at 10:45 pm

    It’s a huge subject–you could write a book about who gets billed for using roads and–maybe more importantly–to whom the money collected should be directed.

    And if you did write that book, it could be called For Whom the Toll Bills.

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  • paikiala September 5, 2017 at 9:50 am

    A. Isn’t congestion a form of congestion pricing?
    B. Why does it need to be ‘solved’?
    C. Why not just stop spending money on car space, except to maintain, add safety, or reallocate, and shift to spending money on alternative forms of transport?

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    • q September 5, 2017 at 6:11 pm

      I’ve always had mixed feelings about congestion pricing for the same reasons I think you’re getting at.

      As it is, drivers know if they drive on freeways at rush hour, they’ll be in traffic jams. If they want to avoid traffic jams, they drive at different times, or travel by a different mode that’s less prone to being jammed.

      Yes, some people must drive at rush hour. A lot THINK they must, but as traffic gets worse, they find out they don’t have to. They change their schedule, take MAX, move closer to work, bike, etc.

      Congestion pricing does give some people an incentive to travel by other modes at rush hour, or to drive but at other times. But it rewards others for continuing to drive at rush hour (those for whom the ability to drive at that time outweighs the fee).

      It reminds me of an example in Freakonomics, where a daycare started charging parents who arrived late to pick up their kids. Once the fee went into effect, lateness increased, since it put a price on lateness that was acceptable to many parents. The fee eliminated a penalty that many parents found unacceptable (shame for being late in this case) and replaced it with a dollar amount that was acceptable to them.

      I’m not arguing against congestion pricing, just saying it may not be the obviously-all-good solution that some people may think it is.

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