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As New York City moves closer to congestion pricing, effort in Los Angeles gets another nudge

(c) 2019, The Washington Post

The idea that Los Angeles should tax drivers to enter certain neighborhoods got a boost Thursday as a group of local governments unveiled a new study suggesting that a $4 fee would help reduce congestion and speed commutes on the city's west side around Santa Monica.

The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) also called for a pilot program to create Mobility Go Zones that would combine congestion pricing, new pedestrian-friendly street design and better transit as way of reducing traffic and air pollution.

The organization says such steps could raise more than $69 million a year and cut traffic time by as much as 24 percent during peak travel periods. At the same time, transit ridership, bicycling and pedestrian traffic would increase. In January, the city's Metro officials also signaled their interest in tolling vehicles to enter certain neighborhoods or business districts.

"Congestion is one of the biggest challenges we face as a region," Alan Wapner, SCAG's president, said in a written statement. "And while there has been a lot of talk about congestion pricing as a solution, this study puts some real numbers to it."

The Los Angeles Times, citing an official who oversaw the study, reported that researchers considered a congestion fee of $6 to $8 but lowered it to $4 after focus groups objected - a sum the official said was "just enough of a nudge to see sizable benefits."

SCAG's pitch for congestion pricing was rolled out just days after New York lawmakers reached consensus on a plan to toll vehicular traffic in New York City. The New York Times reported that state lawmakers had not worked out all the details but agreed this week to set up electronic tolling in the city's business district. Under the tentative plan, the proceeds would help the Metropolitan Transportation Authority make repairs on its subway.

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) has called for a number of changes to make the nation's capital safer and more pedestrian friendly, including creation of congestion pricing.

SCAG - which represents six counties and 191 cities in Southern California - says previous research shows that Los Angeles drivers spend about 128 hours a year in traffic. Setting up Mobility Go Zones would reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled by 21 percent and the number of hours spent driving by 24 percent during the height of rush hour, the new study found.

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