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SF Might Start Charging $6.50 to Drive Downtown in 2024

The city is exploring sliding-scale rush hour “congestion pricing” for cars driving through downtown and SoMa
By - posted 7/27/2021 No Comment

Thanks to the San Francisco Chronicle and the Daily Mail for giving us the full details on San Francisco’s exploration of “congestion pricing” for downtown.

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This is still the early stages of researching whether or not San Francisco will follow models of other cities such as London which has already implemented congestion pricing.

According to the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, a congestion pricing program will take at least five years. But since the study began in 2019 the target date (if implemented) is expected to be 2024 at the earliest.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that an agency spokesperson said any congestion plan could take “three to five years” to be implemented.

The Basics

  • San Francisco would charge $6.50 per car during rush hour for people earning over $100,000. For context, New York City is considering a $14 congestion pricing fee.
  • There would be a sliding scale discount for people earning less than $100,000 with no fee for drivers earning $46,000 or less. 
  • The fee would be charged for drivers entering downtown weekdays between 6-9am, and 3.30-6.30pm.
  • Uber and Lyft would most likely be charged per trip for entering the downtown zone with the fees passed along to customers.
  • Other possible discounts could be if people already paid a bridge toll coming into San Francisco, drivers with disabilities and drivers who live within the zone
  • The “zone” map area is still to be determined and may or may not include North Beach/Fisherman’s Wharf (north of Broadway) and Mission Bay areas.
  • There would be a 20-25% increase in transit service to accommodate additional ridership plus additional potential investments in transit, pedestrian, bicycle, and other improvements.

Read More: San Francisco County Transportation Authority | SF Chronicle | Daily Mail

Potential Congestion Pricing Zone

The congestion pricing zone under consideration is in northeastern San Francisco. Based on community feedback from our first round of outreach, we are exploring how the program would perform with different boundaries. Specifically, we are currently exploring options with either a larger zone or a smaller zone. (The smaller zone excludes Mission Bay and north of Broadway).

Drivers would pay a fee to cross into this boundary during rush hours.

The project team developed this example to include the most congested streets and freeway ramps while following natural neighborhood boundaries where possible. The boundary would also need to be large enough to prevent people from driving around it and clogging nearby neighborhoods.

Making Sure Pricing Programs Are Fair

One question we often hear about congestion pricing is whether we can make the system fair.

Inequities have long been ingrained in our transportation system and are still present today. More cars on the road disproportionately affect low-income communities of color because they are more likely to:

  • Ride the bus, which is stuck in car traffic
  • Live in areas with higher rates of traffic collisions
  • Have health impacts like asthma from polluted air
  • Spend a disproportionate amount of income on transportation, especially those who drive

We’re looking at congestion pricing to flip this dynamic. Most of the drivers downtown during peak hours are in households making over $100,000. By charging a fee to drivers who can afford it and providing discounts and exemptions for those who can’t, we can get traffic moving and improve transit, bike and pedestrian options. And by prioritizing travel, safety, and clean air improvements for the people who need them the most, we can advance equity in our transportation system.

In order to design an equitable congestion pricing program, the study process itself must also be equitable. The project team is collaborating with underinvested communities throughout the course of the study. This includes kicking off the study with listening sessions with leaders in underinvested communities, hosting co-creation workshops with community partners, and convening a Policy Advisory Committee with strong representation from equity-focused organizations.

What Pricing Policy Could Meet Study Goals?

The Downtown Congestion Pricing Study team has conducted analysis to understand what scenarios will meet our goals, including protecting low-income households from transportation cost increases. We have developed three scenarios so far, all of which will undergo further refinement based on feedback.

All three scenarios feature:

  • A full exemption for the lowest-income drivers, plus different discount levels for other low- and moderate-income drivers
  • A discount for drivers with disabilities
  • A per-trip fee for Uber/Lyft rides
  • A 20-25% increase in transit service to accommodate additional ridership plus additional potential investments in transit, pedestrian, bicycle, and other improvements.

The fees for higher-income drivers would be $6.50, but scenarios under consideration include discounts for groups including drivers who paid a bridge toll, drivers with disabilities and residents of the congestion pricing zone.

Public input will continue to help shape these scenarios.