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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Lessons from Cities Considering Congestion Pricing

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Congestion pricing (CP) is widely considered to have significant potential for effectively reducing vehicle miles traveled, reducing emissions, and providing a reliable revenue source for transportation investments. This study evaluated cities interested in CP—five in the U.S. (Boston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle) and two in other countries (Vancouver, Canada, and Auckland, New Zealand). This study examines the following features of a CP system for each of these cities: 1) duration of CP investigations, 2) equity mitigations, 3) range of alternatives considered, 4) public engagement, and 5) importance of emissions reductions. Timelines are impossible to predict with certainty, but New York and Auckland appear closest to implementation. Vancouver, San Francisco, and Seattle are well into the process; and Boston and Los Angeles are early in the process. Other key findings include that most of the cities start considering a range of options before narrowing down to comparing more detailed CP systems. Vancouver and San Francisco have made public engagement a cornerstone of their plan development, using polls and workshops to finetune the details of their CP proposals. In contrast, Auckland, while still engaging with stakeholders and experts for guidance, has mainly focused on how to ensure public support and understanding of the proposals they recommend. In terms of equity, discounts are a common and primary strategy proposed among the cities, but some also develop a more comprehensive set of equity policies to accompany a CP system.

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