Put Some 'Tussin on That Traffic
By Matt Wood in Miscellaneous on Feb 7, 2007 12:58PM
One provision of President Bush's proposed budget could affect Chicagoans and city-dwellers all over the country. Bush is proposing a "congestion initiative" that would award federal grants to cities and states for building toll systems that charge drivers new or increased tolls for traveling in and out of cities during peak times.
Congestion pricing could take the form of "cordon tolls," charges to enter the city proper, or monthly/annual fees for using High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes on expressways. The Department of Transportation figures congestion could be eased significantly by tolls as little as $2 to $2.50 a day. But in areas that have already experimented with congestion pricing, rates have long eclipsed that level. HOV privileges in Southern California are up to $8.50 during the peak rush hour, and the congestion charge for driving in Central London is £8 per day.
How might this work in Chicago? The existing tollways already form a sort of cordon around the city, especially the Skyway to and from Indiana. A congestion pricing scheme would probably just increase the number of collection points. We could also picture HOV fees for driving in the express lanes, monitored by the I-Pass system.
We'll let the policy wonks argue over whether this provision actually has a change of surviving. It's likely to get Bush in more hot water with Republicans, says the Wall Street Journal, as it blasphemes in the Church of Tax Cuts. But ask anyone sitting on the Dan Ryan or Kennedy this morning, and they'd probably be willing to fork over an extra dollar or two to get out of traffic faster. Of course, you don't drive downtown anyway because we have a fast, efficient, and reliable mass transit system, right?