What is it with California and cars? More news, this time from San Francisco:
San Francisco would become the first city in the nation to charge drivers just for driving in its chronically congested downtown under a sure-to-be controversial proposal being aired today.
Supervisor Jake McGoldrick, chair of the San Francisco Transportation Authority, will ask the agency to study a downtown toll zone — whereby drivers would need to purchase a daily pass to drive in The City’s most congested streets — as a potential solution to the Municipal Transportation Agency’s woeful budget problems.
Technically, this is one proposal I have no problem with. Use the roads, pay for it. If the roads are too congested, use tolls to discourage driving — markets should make anything over-used more expensive.
Problem is, San Fran — by McGoldrick’s own admission — isn’t proposing using tolls to reduce congestion, but rather to make up shortfalls in MTA’s budget. If the traffic were really that bad, bus ridership ought to increase enough to make the MTA at least break even.
When I lived in SF, I hardly ever drove in the city. I kept my truck parked (quite illegally) in a residential area right next to the Daly City BART station. Once a week, when I needed to go shopping, visit friends in the South Bay or whatever, I’d pay a couple bucks to ride the BART and get my car. All in all, I think I was paying six or seven dollars a week for Bay Area parking. Nice little scam if you can manage it. In town, I rode the bus or the train or walked — period.
In other words, I was the ideal San Fran resident. I paid my taxes, kept my vehicle off the streets, and did my bit to keep the MTA afloat. And I was far from the only one. Furthermore, SF is a great place for mass transit. High population density, streets laid out in a near-perfect grid, and three (yes, three – bus, train, BART) different kinds of mass transport going literally everywhere.
If the MTA can’t keep to its budget under those close-to-ideal circumstances, the problem is with the MTA, not with the traffic.