Congestion Pricing Works in Other Cities, but Proposal Unpopular With Some L.A. Commuters

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A new study on L.A.’s traffic-choked Westside calls for making people pay to drive there.

Researchers say it’s an effective way to get people out of their own cars and into mass transit. Some argue that the city’s mass transit system is inadequate, and that the plan unfairly penalizes drivers.

A Los Angeles Times graphic shows the $4 traffic fee study area.
A Los Angeles Times graphic shows the $4 traffic fee study area.

The study suggests charging drivers $4 to drive into the 4.3-square-mile area during weekday rush hour.

Charging drivers has already been effective in places like London, Milan, and Stockholm, but would it work in Los Angeles?

Eric Spillman spoke to commuters to see what they had to say.

“That’s terrible. I drive every day. I would be broke,” commuter Michelle Richardson said with a laugh. “Put a subway or a train up the middle of the 405 like they should’ve in the first place.”

“Very unfair, I think so. Because four dollars for some people can be a lot. If you have to go to work five times a week in this area, and you don’t make too much, you know, that adds up,” commuter Miles Myvett said.

One L.A. city councilman has already come out against the plan.

“Congestion pricing has been a very effective strategy in other jurisdictions like London to reduce congestion and actually improve air quality, but the way they have structured this program and the place they have looked at does not work,” Mike Bonin said. “One, we need to build out our transit system, and the other this is we need to start requiring our large employers … to do more carpooling, more vanpooling, do transit subsidies for the employees, allow flex hours, and allow telecommuting.”

Bonin said the plan might work in places with better mass transit options.

“Doing this in West L.A. has two problems with it: one is you don’t have the alternative. There is not a transit alternative for most people. And the second is very important for me as an equity issue. They mention a low-income discount, it’s a half off for low-income and 90 percent off for residents, so the CEO of a billion-dollar company essentially gets to do this for free, and the gardener or the child care worker working on that estate doesn’t. That ain’t right.”

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