Transportation Re-Vision

This week’s Willamette Week makes five recommendations to re-vision Portland. Two of them are transportation-related.

One is a no-brain-er, implementing the BTA’s vision to greatly expand our bicycle boulevard network.

The other would, I’m sure, be more controversial. They suggest congestion pricing for downtown, analogous to what was implemented in London:

A few years ago, London’s roads got so congested there were only two solutions: more streets or fewer drivers. So in February 2003, London’s mayor took the radical step of charging drivers entering the 8-square mile city center eight pounds (more than $14.50 in today’s dollars) during peak times.

Bill Scott, general manager of Portland’s Flexcar operation, says a similar approach in Portland, perhaps just on the highways, would encourage alternative modes of transportation and raise money for different services from road and bridge repair to building more bike boulevards.

“The automobiles would pay the full price for the infrastructure they use,” he says.

The idea would likely be anathema to downtown business owners already fuming about roadblocks that turn shoppers away from downtown toward suburban stores and malls. Their complaints include lack of parking, new higher rates on parking tickets and upcoming bus mall construction.

But supporters of London’s plan say it’s been successful. The number of cars commuting at peak times fell by a third. While some argued that drivers with low incomes would have a tough time affording the surcharge, fewer cars on the road made the buses run faster, saving on the time-cost of public transit.

I can already hear PBA members shouting :-)

Is there a version of this that could work for Portland?

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