Officials in Los Angeles have for years made numerous attempts to alleviate the city’s infamous traffic gridlock.
A look at any major thoroughfare at rush hour makes it obvious none have worked.
Failures at reducing traffic never seem to grow old for L.A.’s political class, however, and there seems to be a renewed attempt of late to get Angelenos to leave our cars at home.
Part of this push is the Twenty-Eight by ’28 initiative ‒ a list of 28 mass transit projects city officials want finished in advance of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games. The L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority needs a cool $26 billion to meet this goal, according to authority Chief Executive Phillip Washington.
During a Jan. 24 Metro Board meeting, Washington proposed congestion charging as one way to raise the needed funds. The charge could be a fee paid by L.A. drivers when they entered designated areas. Another possibility would be to charge L.A. residents based on the number of miles they drive.
Proponents point to programs in London, Singapore and Stockholm to show congestion fees can lead to tangible improvements in traffic congestion and air pollution levels. While the charges may work in cities with extensive public transit systems, it’s questionable how effective a similar program would be with L. A.’s nearly unparalleled urban sprawl and limited transit options.
L.A.’s public transportation options have expanded over the past few decades, but for residents unable to live near their places or employment or business, taking Metro often just isn’t an option as their neighborhoods are bypassed by rail and bus lines.
Another factor to consider is the cost. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed a congestion charge to help ease traffic in Manhattan. Under the proposal, cars would be charged $11.52 to enter Manhattan, and trucks would have to pay $25.34; a proposal charging taxis and cars for hire to enter Manhattan has already been approved (though its implementation is being held up in the courts).
Were Los Angeles to institute a similar pricing scheme, the city’s drivers would likely have to shell out thousands of dollars more per year simply to get to work. And the reality is that the people who could least afford to pay the charge are least served by Metro and wouldn’t have a feasible alternative to get to work.
The plan could also affect L.A. area businesses. Companies that offer delivery services would see an outsized impact, but it could also change the way business is done in as yet undiscovered ways.
There is no guarantee Los Angeles will implement a congestion charge. Metro’s Board simply voted to study the idea, so now is the time for Angelenos and the city’s business community to get involved. This city undeniably has a traffic problem, but the solution needs to take the needs of all Angelenos into account.
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