Downtown drivers could face congestion fees

Pedestrians cross without the right of way. Taxis cut across lanes of traffic. Cyclists whiz by at every corner, while drivers blare their horns when traffic is at a standstill.

Welcome to downtown San Francisco.

Concerned about how to control the amount of traffic in downtown, transportation officials have looked at how a fee for private auto drivers to enter the area would affect congestion levels.

A report by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority predicts downtown traffic will become unmanageable and stuck in gridlock if the number of drivers continues to grow over the next thirty years.

The report suggests that the number of private automobiles must be reduced by 27 percent to avoid this carmageddon, and that a congestion fee alone could reduce congestion by 10 to 15 percent.

The City studied in 2010 how congestion pricing could cut down the amount of cars wheeling through downtown. A 2010 report by the authority indicated that a $3 fee could generate $60 million to $80 million each year.

The money generated would be invested into transportation improvements. The $3 dollar fee would still be cheaper than a round-trip BART ticket within San Francisco, but more expensive than Muni.

Even with the fees not all congestion can be alleviated. The authority’s deputy planning director, Tilly Chang, told the Ex that SoMa could have more transit-only lanes, more bicycle paths, wider sidewalks, and high-occupancy vehicle lanes to freeway on ramps, all of which could reduce congestion:

“It’s time to really plan proactively to avoid gridlock. If the growth anticipated in the region happens, we’ll be facing massive delays and really unsafe conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists.”