Monday, July 14, 2008

Variable tolling is knocking at the door

As the federal highway trust fund fizzles out at the national level, and the state coffers for transportation are tapped out, various new revenue sources to fund transportation infrastructure are being considered and tested out.

It appears that one of the most viable sources for transportation is going to be some form tolling the users of the system. Of course, traditional tolling is always going to work due to economies of scale and for other geographic reasons. But it does look like we are headed for some form of a pay-as-you-go type of revenue stream.

Take Seattle for instance, the city is pilot testing a new concept called congestion pricing on the 520 bridge project. Seattle is one of five major metropolitan areas in the country to test the concept. In essence, congestion pricing is way to manage demand on the transportation network by charging higher tolls during the peak driving times and reduced tolls during the non-peak hours. The goal is to incentivize commuters to use public transportation, ride a bike, or adjust their driving times (if possible) to reduce congestion during the traditional "rush hours."

The concept is really gaining traction in the major metropolitan areas. Just last week, the city of Portland conditionally approved a $4.2 billion bridge expansion over the Columbia River on U.S. I-5, and they plan to use variable tolls, or congestion pricing, to pay for the project. Read the whole story here.

Question: Do you think some form of congestion pricing would work in the Spokane region? If so, how would it work?

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About SRTC

SRTC is the federally designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for Spokane County. Urbanized areas with populations exceeding 50,000 people are required to have an MPO. SRTC was formed to address the county's transportation planning needs. It provides coordination in planning between the public, cities, small towns, the county, the state, transit providers, and tribes.

SRTC offers services including transportation monitoring, transportation modeling, census information analysis, travel demand forecasting, historical traffic count analysis, geographic information systems, and trip generation rates.