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Would congestion pricing work to reduce traffic in Los Angeles?

Traffic fills the 110 freeway during rush hour on May 7, 2001, in downtown Los Angeles, CA.
Traffic fills the 110 freeway during rush hour on May 7, 2001, in downtown Los Angeles, CA.
David McNew/Getty Images

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From pollution to frustration, the toll of dealing with L.A. traffic is high, but would you be willing to pay a toll in the form of congestion pricing to reduce it?

That’s the idea floated this month by the Southern California Association of Governments, a planning agency that wants to workshop ways to reduce traffic in LA, including the hotly contested idea of de-congestion fees – essentially, charging drivers to use streets in congested zones during peak traffic periods. The idea is to incentivize the use of alternate means of transit, to raise money for infrastructure and to ultimately reduce the amount of hours Angelenos spend in their cars.  

Over the weekend, this idea has been endorsed by the Los Angeles Times editorial board, which cites the success of cities such as Stockholm, London and Singapore. But there’s been pushback critiquing the feasibility of the idea, as well as whether L.A.’s public transit is a viable alternative to driving, concerns that tolls would further economic inequity and the transitional pains of implementing such a system.

Would you switch to alternate means of transit to avoid paying a traffic toll? Do you think decongestion fees would work to reduce traffic in Los Angeles or would they be an unnecessary economic burden on lower-income drivers?  



Michael Manville, assistant professor of urban planning at UCLA; his research focuses on transportation, land use and local public finance

Felix Salmon, financial journalist and host and editor of Cause & Effect, a a forthcoming podcast about philanthropy and activism from Fusion Media Group; he tweets @felixsalmon