Charging to enter The City will only lead to worse traffic

Our northern friends are at it again, attempting to squeeze others to pay for their problems.

San Francisco officials’ proposed plan to charge drivers entering and leaving certain parts of The City at certain times of the day is government pocket-picking at its worst.

Proponents of this so-called “congestion-pricing” plan tout it as a great way to encourage people to take public transit while generating revenue for improved Muni service, pothole repairs and bike and pedestrian improvements. Drivers would have to pay up to $6 a day to enter or leave downtown San Francisco during certain hours Mondays through Fridays, plus another $3 to cross — in both directions — The City’s border with San Mateo County.

The San Francisco County Transportation Authority, which comprises the Board of Supervisors, estimated that such a plan could generate $60 million to $80 million a year in net revenue. Basically, some folks up north are eyeing the Bay Area and seeing dollar signs.

Plan supporters point to a similar program in London as a model for success. Perhaps London’s success could be emulated throughout the nine-county Bay Area? To paraphrase John Lennon: Imagine no more traffic congestion — ever!

Seriously, San Francisco is a great city, but it is not London, which has a population of 6.5 million people and covers more than 600 square miles. Muni and BART are wonderful transit systems, but they pale in comparison with the London Underground, which has 270 stations. Even the London Overground surface rail system beats BART with 78 stations.

If implemented as proposed, San Francisco’s congestion-toll plan will create several results.

The areas surrounding BART stations in Daly City, Colma, South San Francisco, San Bruno, Millbrae and any other outlying stations with large parking facilities will fill with commuter traffic starting at about oh-dark-30 every weekday morning. This also will lead to parking problems for those communities.

Daly City’s John Daly Boulevard, Skyline Boulevard, Mission Street and every residential street in Original Daly City, Southern Hills and the Bayshore neighborhoods will overflow with morning and afternoon traffic.

On the other side of the line, the San Francisco neighborhoods of Ingleside Heights, Merced Heights, Oceanview, the Outer Mission, Crocker Amazon and Visitacion Valley will experience the same scenario.

This will happen because installing a camera system to cover every neighborhood street that crosses the county line will be exorbitantly expensive, not to mention the time and staffing needed to process all the images of license plates.

Drivers who can will adjust their drive times to avoid the toll hours, creating congestion during nontoll hours. This just means bad traffic all day, at all hours. As for drivers without drive-time flexibility — families and working parents — well, that $60 million to $80 million estimate had to come from somewhere!

Obviously, certain San Francisco supervisors and bureaucrats view residents of their neighboring counties as nothing more than deep-pocketed fertilizer for their municipal money trees.

Adrienne J. Tissier is a member of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors and the 2010 vice chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.


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