CityWatch Columnist Defends His Attack on Congestion Pricing

I know I’m a little late responding to this one, but CityWatch columnist Charles Tarlow responded to Streetsblog’s critique of his attacks on congestion pricing, and some of it needs to be responded to.

Tarlow’s March 28th piece, "Paying to Use Our FREEways," offers no new arguments until the last three paragraphs when it presents the argument that tolling HOV lanes on highways will stop the author from picking up his kids at school. Then the column ends with a call for more transit.

And let’s be real for a moment. The goal of Congestion Pricing is painfully obvious. The proponents of this scheme want to FORCE people out of their cars. By people, I don’t mean them … that would be crazy. By people, I mean people other than them. People who actually have to worry about what it costs to go to work, go shopping and pickup the kids.

This isn’t as much about toll roads and parking fees as it is about quality of life. Congestion Pricing is an assault on the quality of life in our cities. If the decision makers in Los Angeles, our Mayor and our City Councilmen, had to take public transportation, Congestion Pricing wouldn’t even be in the public discourse. We would be talking about mass transit and how we are going to pay for it.

In the end, that is what we should be talking about: Mass transit. It’s the only long term answer to the city’s gridlock. It is the only true solution; and not just for the rich … for everyone.

First, most of the people that support congestion pricing are not rich people. If you go back to the March 14th Streetsblog column’s comments you’ll see the people supporting pricing are not a bunch of upper class snobs, but a collection of activist bike riders and Metro Riders. I guess you could argue that we hope that people other than us will get out of their cars because, for the most part, none of us drive that often, if at all.

Second, I’m not sure if Mr. Tarlow understands what’s being proposed for Los Angeles. What’s being proposed is converting HOV Lanes, both those planned and those in existence, into variable toll lanes. I’m not sure what a highway pricing strategy would have to do with one’s ability to go shopping or pick up their kids. Unless you live in East Hollywood, the kids go to school in Anaheim and you do your grocery shopping in Woodland Hills.

And last, I agree that Los Angeles needs more transportation options and especially needs an expanded transit system. If only we could think of a way to pay for it. I propose a user fee for highway users, I wonder how Mr. Tarlow would pay for it.

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