Monday, March 19, 2007

Congestion Pricing in Portland, OR

Recently, there was a post on PortlandTransport on why Congestion Pricing isn't more widely implemented. This was based on a blog post written by Michael Manville (of UCLA) on the same topic. What follows are the thoughts that I had after reading Professor Manville's article, basically related to how Congestion Pricing might work in the Portland region.

I think that the issue of Congestion Pricing has thus far been implemented in two very different ways, which should perhaps be considered differently:

1) Cordon-style district congestion pricing, ala London and Stockholm
2) Peak period variable tolling of specific lanes on a freeway -- so-called High Occupancy Toll (HOT) Lanes.

The first could potentially be implemented in Portland for an area encompassing the 1990s-era Fareless Square district (before this district was expanded across the river to include Lloyd Center). This district generally has the most surface street daytime traffic congestion in the city. The revenue could be used to help improve transit service for the district, by paying for some capital costs for new streetcars/LRVs, as well as the additional operational costs associated with these vehicles. More bicycle facilities could also be constructed leading into and within the district. Presumably, this would encourage many folks to stop driving and start taking transit or riding their bicycles to enter the district.

The second idea could be implemented on Portland's freeway system, and indeed, this does make some sense when taken in tandem with the idea of removing I-5 from the east bank of the Willamette. I-405, I-26 through the tunnels, I-84 through Sullivan's Gulch and I-5 through NoPo and the Terwilliger Curves could all have congestion pricing applied to them. This charge could help pay for the capital costs associated with the removal of I-5, and perhaps then with the capping of the freeways and the building of parks, bike lanes and neighborhood centers on top of them. Call it a citywide freeway mitigation program.

What the program needs, apparently, is a strong advocate to make it happen.

Commissioner Sam Adams... are you listening?


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