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Polling show SF residents reject congestion pricing proposal

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Drivers sit in traffic while waiting to get onto the Interstate 80 onramp at Fifth and Bryant streets on Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Tanked. Flatlined. Dead-on-arrival.

No matter how you word it, support for congestion pricing downtown among San Franciscans is nearly as low as it can get, according to a city poll released Tuesday.

Yet on that same morning the Board of Supervisors, acting in their capacity as the San Francisco County Transportation Authority board, authorized $500,000 to further study the concept in San Francisco.

The low support from San Franciscans was revealed in the latest Dignity Healthy CityBeat poll from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, which interviewed 500 San Franciscans between January 10 and 14 this year by landline and cell phone.

The CityBeat poll revealed only 16 percent of San Franciscans strongly support charging a $3 fee to people driving in and out of downtown during commute hours.

On the flipside, 51 percent of respondents strongly oppose the plan, with 14 percent “somewhat” opposing the plan, and 14 percent “somewhat” supporting the plan. All told, that’s 30 percent of San Franciscans backing the idea, and 65 percent rejecting it.

At the same time, the poll also showed 82 percent of San Franciscans saying they thought traffic congestion on city streets is getting worse, which is up from 74 percent last year.

City officials hope charging a fee to enter San Francisco will help persuade Bay Area commuters to arrive in The City by BART and other forms of public transit, while also generating funds for public transit improvements.

Juliana Bunim, senior vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber’s poll reveals San Franciscans don’t agree with that strategy.

“Our poll shows that people are sick of gridlock and congestion and want real transportation options,” she said. “We need to give people reliable and accessible ways to commute throughout the Bay Area to support our workforce.”

Though the transportation authority board ultimately approved funds for transportation authority staff to study congestion pricing, it wasn’t without caveats.

Referencing low support in the CityBeat poll, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman said instituting the scheme would be “a heavy lift.”

“I think there is inherent concern and doubt about this approach,” he said, while acknowledging it is “one of the few tools we have left” to combat downtown traffic congestion is congestion pricing.

Supervisor Sandra Fewer said she worried reducing vehicle traffic would hurt Chinatown businesses, as well as business in other neighborhoods.

“I’m happy to approve the funding to approve the study but wanted to be transparent” about her feelings, Fewer said. “I don’t really dig it.”

joe@sfexaminer.com

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