Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan proposed a new way to reduce congestion and pay for transit this week by tolling cars coming into the city. It’s called “congestion pricing.”
But the idea of increasing costs in this increasingly expensive city raises eyebrows. Maybe try better marketing, says one expert.
Yurie Crockett drives a pump truck for General Biodiesel. He sucks up used fry oil from a barrel behind a Mexican restaurant. It makes a slurping sound.
Crockett doesn’t like the idea of charging people to bring their cars downtown.
“I think that’s a ridiculous idea, just another opportunity for our elected government to tax the less fortunate in our communities," he said. "I don’t understand how that’s gonna help traffic other than take money from hard working people when they have to pay that fee.”
Crockett's employer would pick up the cost of his tolls, which according to the mayor, would pay for more buses.
Crockett uses buses to get to work.
Transit consultant Jarrett Walker said the problem is with the name, "congestion pricing." It’s like the term “death tax,” which was drummed up to discredit the inheritance tax.
Nobody likes death or taxes. Put the two words together and you get a thing politicians have trouble supporting.
Similarly, nobody likes congestion or paying the price for it.
“I’ve suggested the word 'decongestion pricing,' because that is what the price buys," said Walker. "The price buys less congested streets, with more room for all people of all modes to get through. ”
Thinking about decongestion and its benefits seems to have won over Stacy Wurster, an ecofriendly house cleaner in Seattle. Her work has her driving to two houses a day. To get to work, she commutes to Fremont from West Seattle via highway 99.
Wurster said delivery services are increasing downtown, and she has trouble finding a parking space while working. Some healthy traffic decongestion would help her, and she's willing to pay for it. "We all have to help," she said. Told that the money would supposedly go for buses, she said "that makes me want to do it more."
But better marketing isn’t enough for Yurie Crockett.
"I've heard that song and dance before," he said. Politicians always promise better transit, he said. Look at where we are now: Still congested.