April 10, 2008
Original Seattle times blog post
Matt Rosenberg over at Cascadia, here, has a useful post on "congestion pricing" for roads and the systems in downtown London and Singapore, which are cordon pricing. Cordon pricing is where the authorities cordon off the downtown and charge a toll for anyone who crosses the boundary. Basically, it's a toll to go downtown, usually variable by time of day. The idea is partly to decongest the roads, but mainly is to get you to take the bus.
The idea proposed for the Seattle area is congestion pricing on the floating bridges (and maybe later on I-5). It is not cordoning off an area. It is tolling a road. For the people in Bellevue, the effect would not be much different than cordon pricing, but for the people in Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Renton, Burien, etc., it would. And for the people of Seattle it would. Congestion pricing is about decongesting specific roads (and paying for them, though that is no longer the main idea). Congestion pricing it is not as transparently a program of lifestyle management as is cordon pricing. It also would appear to be cheaper, because on a bridge you need only one toll station, probably only in one direction, whereas on a cordon plan, you have to build a kind of Berlin Wall around a whole district and have various Checkpoint Charlies. People here are not ready for that, and I can't guess when they ever will be.