Eno Releases New Report on Congestion Pricing Principles for US Cities

In the United States, cities like San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC are exploring congestion pricing as one policy tool to address urban mobility challenges. Charging a fee for the parts of the roadway network used the most at the busiest times of day reduces demand by incentivizing drivers to switch to other modes, seek other routes, or travel at other times.

In a new report, Congestion Pricing in the United States: Principles for Developing a Viable Program to Advance Sustainability and Equity Goals, Eno guides cities through the political, institutional, and communication hurdles of implementing congestion pricing. The report offers ten principles to illustrate key concepts, challenges, and best practices from places that have pursued or implemented the policy.

Eno’s principles inform three stages in the policy development process:

  • The idea stage, when the initial concept is conceived in order to address a specific problem or opportunity
  • The planning stage, when more specific details are formulated
  • The proposal stage, when the final strategy is developed

When formulating the initial idea, one principle is to situate the policy within a clear vision and purpose. Places that approach the policy with a bold rationale aimed at achieving local goals are better positioned to achieve a broad base of support and to have engaging local discussions on the policy’s objectives. The vision for pursuing congestion pricing should transcend transportation to emphasize social, environmental, and economic outcomes by addressing a crisis or embracing an opportunity. An example of this is New York City’s forthcoming congestion pricing program, which is specifically intended to address the crisis of the city’s deteriorating subway system.

During planning, a key principle is to create fair programs. Equity should be at the heart of both the process of developing a congestion pricing program and of the policy itself. Two strategies for ensuring equity are to engage diverse stakeholders early and conduct data-driven analysis to identify effects on vulnerable populations. To engage its community, Portland, Oregon has established a Pricing Options for Equitable Mobility Community Task Force to advise the city on potential pricing strategies.

In the final phase of developing a congestion pricing program, one principle is to limit any exemptions from the charge to essential services only. While it may be tempting to exempt a wide variety of vehicles and drivers from paying the charge, exemptions that go beyond essential services may counteract the program’s effectiveness at reducing congestion. Stockholm, Sweden’s program initially exempted drivers of clean and electric vehicles, but the benefit was removed when it became too successful, resulting in an increase in congestion.

To read more on these and the remaining principles, you can access Eno’s report here. Join us in a webinar about the report on Thursday, May 28.

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