Many large communities in the United States are contemplating the use of congestion taxes to free up roadways and particularly congested urban areas. This takes many forms, but the underlying tenet of this strategy is to reduce negative externalities of people’s driving behavior, including traffic congestion and emissions.
In Chicago, this is taking the form of increased ride share taxes in the downtown areas, and especially large rate increases for solo Uber/Lyft rides as opposed to shared rides. https://www.chicagotribune.com/politics/ct-chicago-congestion-tax-uber-20191018-mbzfws5hubderki4fm733hwrqi-story.html. (Links to an external site.)On the surface, this would help encourage people to take fewer solo rides, do more rideshare, and take more public transit, which should have the cumulative effect of reducing downtown congestion and vehicle emissions.
Statewide, Illinois Department of Transportation has considered managed lanes projects on the highways (most recently I-55 (Links to an external site.)) in which the existing lanes will remain free, but new lanes would be added with variable-priced tolling. More traffic? Higher prices in the managed lanes, but you move more quickly. This system is already widely implemented in several places, including LA and DC.
On a more national level, there are several other options being considered, including so-called “cordon pricing” in New York, which charges a fee for entering certain downtown districts) and variable tolls on freeways in several markets. Brookings has a good current rundown: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2019/10/16/congestion-pricing-is-all-around-us-why-is-it-taboo-on-our-roads/ (Links to an external site.)
If you have ever visited London, you may have noticed their congestion pricing – it is significant. They charge £11.50 (about $15) to drive into Central London during peak business hours. Several other cities have been using this for years, including Stockholm and Singapore. These programs do generally lead to reductions in traffic and emissions, though there are concerns about other effects, most notably inequity – creating situations in which only the wealthy will drive into downtown areas.
So with all of this, I want to talk about Chicagoland. Think downtown core, think suburban and urban freeways. What would you recommend to get reduce vehicle-caused negative externalities? Cordon pricing? Managed tolls? Is Mayor Lightfoot on the right path with the ride share taxes?
One last thought I want to plant here – leading is difficult. Each decision you make here will positively impact some people and negatively impact others. e.g., The downtown dweller who walks to work will benefit from cleaner air and fewer vehicles, but the suburban commuter may get punished. Take this in mind as you develop solutions.
Please limit your thoughts to no more than two pages.
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