The tone spurred by the word "toll," however, might be a little high, and we might have better results if we talked about "congestion pricing" instead.
Tolls maybe sound punitive, but "congestion pricing" is a market-based solution that preserves individual choice and relies on the aggregate wisdom of the crowd in allocating road capacity.
|Cherriots new service map points towards congestion pricing|
Maybe the thing that crystallizes this best is the probability that transit will not work in West Salem unless we have congestion pricing on the bridges.
Cherriots new service levels just empty out West Salem, just give up on it. The case boils down to, "Have you looked at the numbers? There's no way to justify running empty buses all around the hills of West Salem."
One of the reasons for that is the drive-alone trip is too cheap.
And if we charged more for parking and for congestion pricing, Cherriots would look a lot more cost effective.
Additionally, a household's expenses wouldn't just add up to more with car trips + new bus trips. Instead there would be fewer car trips, and more bus trips, and there would be cost shifting rather than just cost adding.
On a bridge email list one person writes:
Just purely guestimating for my family; husband, me and my [child] who works over the bridge and goes to [a job site in east Salem], our annual cost could be about $7,665. That is astronomical for something that's not even benefitting us! I would have even had to pay $3.00 just to go to the funding meeting last night!But this calculation assumes no change in trip choices. With real bus service, the funding meeting might have been an excellent choice for a transit trip. Same with much of the fixed schedule job commuting. Additionally, walking, biking, or carpool could become more attractive. With real bus service, a household can consider eliminating an extra car - and that right there approaches $10,000.
So there are system effects that can mitigate the cost of congestion pricing and rebalance household budgeting.
Another way, though, to look at tolls is as a "user fee." And in this way, if we used tolls to finance the seismic retrofit of the Center and Marion Street Bridges, there would be a direct link between the user fees and user benefits.
There's also talk about real estate. Here's the thing. Without congestion pricing, because longer commutes from West Salem are too cheap, the pricing in the market right now subsidizes car-dependent property far out in West Salem - even in Monmouth, Independence and Dallas. There's not enough incentive for developers to concentrate along transit lines and closer in. Congestion pricing will help curb sprawl and generate more kinds of walkable development, both residential and commercial, in West Salem.
One criticism that probably holds is that downtown businesses should oppose tolling because it will make shopping from West Salem less attractive. I don't know that there's an answer to this: I think it is true to some extent.
You might recall the "retail leakage" in West Salem from the West Salem Business study earlier this year.
|"Retail Leakage" in West Salem|
from Market Analysis memo
Downtown's prosperity should not rely on subsidizing trips from West Salem. The single-most important factor to a solution in downtown will be more downtown housing. We need people to be right there in meaningful densities. Linking downtown's health to car-dependent trips from West Salem may look good in the near-term, but it only harms downtown and Salem generally in the medium- and longer-term.
Congestion pricing for a Third Bridge is a lousy idea.
Congestion pricing to generate revenue for our existing bridges and to better allocate capacity on those same bridges is a good idea that deserves a very serious look.