Trucking interests skeptical of zone-based congestion pricing

From Freight Waves.

Zone-based congestion pricing for vehicles entering downtown business districts has long been considered a way to reduce delays and stress for commuters. But the potential for cutting fuel consumption and vehicle emissions now dovetails with the Biden administration’s climate policy goals — at a time when states are looking for ways to refill infrastructure budget coffers decimated by the pandemic.

If the new administration decides to put its weight behind the concept, how will truckers fare?

How it works

Congestion pricing “is a way of harnessing the power of the market to reduce the waste associated with traffic congestion,” according to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). It usually involves a tolling system that uses pricing to disincentivize travel during peak periods. The idea is to shift some rush-hour highway travel to other transportation modes, such as transit rail or bus, or to off-peak periods.

The country’s most populous metropolitan regions are also home to the largest congestion costs per mile for truckers (see table below). FHWA contends that by removing as little as 5% of the vehicles from a congested roadway, “pricing enables the system to flow much more efficiently, allowing more [vehicles] to move through the same physical space.”

Congestion pricing is currently used on bridges, in tunnels and on stretches of interstate, such as in San Diego, Seattle and the Washington, D.C., region. But New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles are looking to take congestion pricing to another level by applying the fees to a cordoned central business district.

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