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San Francisco considers traffic congestion fee for ‘rich’ drivers earning over $46k a year

San Francisco considers traffic congestion fee that would only apply to ‘rich’ drivers making more than $46,000 a year

  • San Francisco is considering a congestion pricing plan to relieve traffic
  • The plan would charge a fee for those entering a certain zone in downtown
  • The $6.50 fee would be discounted for those making under $100,000
  • No fee would be charged to those making less than $46,000, the plan proposes 

San Francisco is considering a congestion pricing plan that would charge motorists for entering the busy downtown core — but only if they make more than $46,000 per year.

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority is leading the city’s study on the proposal to charge a fee to any drivers who enter the downtown zone, details of which were reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.

London has used a similar congestion charge scheme for nearly a decade, but it does not include an income threshold. New York City is currently considering a daily charge of $14 for motorists who enter certain parts of Manhattan.

The proposal in San Francisco would charge the full fee of $6.50 to any driver making more than $100,000, with discounts for those who make less, and no fee at all for anyone making less than $46,000. 

San Francisco is considering a congestion pricing plan that would charge motorists for entering the busy downtown core — but only if they make more than $46,000 per year

The proposal is considering two zones, one smaller (dark orange) and one larger (light orange)

The proposal is considering two zones, one smaller (dark orange) and one larger (light orange)

Drivers would pay the fee for entering downtown on weekdays between 6am and 9am, and 3.30pm to 6.30pm.

Ride hailing vehicles such as Uber and Lyft would likely be charged per trip for entering the zone, and pass the fees along to customers.

The agency is considering two options for the pricing zone, one encompassing the immediate downtown area and the other expanded to include North Beach, Russian Hill and Fisherman’s Wharf to the north, and Mission Bay to the south.

Any congestion pricing pricing plan is still three to five years from potentially being implemented, an agency spokesperson told the Chronicle.

San Francisco has been considering congestion pricing since as early as 2004, but the discussion became more urgent as gridlocked spiraled out of control prior to the pandemic.

Congestion pricing is popular in Europe and a number of US cities are moving to follow suit

Congestion pricing is popular in Europe and a number of US cities are moving to follow suit

San Francisco's downtown core experiences chronic congestion, city data shows

San Francisco’s downtown core experiences chronic congestion, city data shows

The pandemic saw a dramatic drop in traffic nationwide, but since restrictions have eased, gridlock has returned to many cities, including San Francisco. 

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden’s administration gave New York City the go-ahead in March to speed up an environmental review of a proposed congestion pricing, which could see drivers paying up to $14 to enter Midtown Manhattan beginning early next year.  

The Federal Highway Administration said on Tuesday the plan would undergo an expedited environmental assessment, which generally takes less time than an environmental impact statement. 

New York wants to charge a daily variable toll for vehicles entering or remaining within the ‘Central Business District’ – an area stretching from 60th Street in Midtown to Battery Park – in a bid to manage traffic. 

The federal government has approved an expedited environmental assessment for New York City's congestion pricing plan for Midtown Manhattan (area is pictured on the map)

The federal government has approved an expedited environmental assessment for New York City’s congestion pricing plan for Midtown Manhattan (area is pictured on the map)

The plan was first approved by state lawmakers in April 2019 and officials had hoped to begin pricing in January 2021 

Last year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo blamed the Trump Administration for blocking the project. Cuomo on Tuesday praised the Biden Administration for ‘advancing this important program.’

Cuomo added that congestion pricing will ‘reduce traffic congestion, enhance the availability and reliability of public transportation and improve our air quality.’

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he spoke to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg about the issue recently.  

‘He heard me loud and clear. New York City is ready to go,’ de Blasio said. 

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