Nevius: Traffic Isn’t The Problem, Transit Is

Congestion ChargingThe Chronicle’s CW Nevius predictably takes the anti-congestion pricing side of this debate in the Chronicle today, arguing that the problem with traffic isn’t all of those pesky auto drivers in cars, it’s the mass transit systems that don’t provide better alternatives to driving.

Of course Nevius makes a good point, one that we have been talking about for years, that mass transit needs to be competitive in time, cost, and comfort to driving, or else people won’t switch. (That’s why we are supporting the Transit Effectiveness Project to make service faster and more reliable for Muni’s 700,000 daily riders.)

But he completely misses the main point of congestion pricing – to reduce traffic and get the buses moving! In London, the congestion charge led to a 21% reduction in traffic volume compared to pre-charge levels, and a 6% increase in bus ridership due to faster bus travel times and increased service. If the price is set high enough to actually discourage traffic from coming downtown, we should expect similar reductions in traffic and increases in transit use – which is exactly what SF voters have voted for repeatedly in approving the Transit-First Policy in 1999 and 2007.

Every bus rider knows that traffic is a major cause of delays. It’s not the only cause of delays, but it’s at least as important as stop spacing and route layout, which are being addressed via the TEP. Congestion pricing is a proven way to reduce traffic, and by doing so, provide commuters real alternatives to driving.

Update: Transbay Blog has a detailed analysis.