Paying to Drive Downtown? Congestion Pricing May be Heading to the U.S.

Traffic in downtown cities around the world is getting worse, and with it comes more lost time and frustration among drivers.  But some cities are tackling congestion straight on- with money.  Less money in drivers’ pockets, that is.  The approach, called “congestion pricing,” is simple: charge people to drive into areas that are highly congested.  The goal is to reduce the number of vehicles in that area at any one time, thereby reducing traffic and congestion.  Another benefit includes the lower amounts of pollution emitted in a concentrated area.

As an example, drivers in England now have to pay about $15 to drive into downtown London.  The charge applies Monday through Friday, between the hours of 7:00am and 6:00pm.  That’s on top of the $13 annual registration fee, though the per-drive fee drops by $1 if a driver uses the AutoPay system.  If someone were to drive into London to work 200 times a year, that privilege would cost around $3,000.

And that seems to be enough to get drivers’ attention, “nudging” people toward public transportation and away from using personal vehicles to get to and from work in concentrated areas like downtown business districts.  This approach is said to reduce both traffic and damage to the environment.

Still in its infancy, congestion pricing may continue to grow around the world.  It remains controversial at this point, and significant research will need to be done to determine if it actually accomplishes its intended goals.  Stay tuned!

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