Seattle Considers Congestion Pricing

Driving through Seattle is a challenge. Seattle is one of, if not the most, traffic congested cities in the state. In an attempt to alleviate some of the traffic, the city of Seattle may implement congestion pricing: a toll that drivers must pay to use popular routes during peak hours. If successful, the tax will reduce use of the roads during those hours, and the revenue collected will fund transportation projects.

Cities such as New York, London, Singapore, and Stockholm have already used congestion pricing. While New York’s tax is fairly new, the system worked well in the other cities. Whether or not a tax will successfully relieve Seattle traffic still remains up in the air; London, Singapore, and Stockholm all had characteristics that aided its success that Seattle does not have. According to the Seattle Times,  in order for congestion pricing to succeed, people must have access to various alternatives. People in London can choose to use their subway or commuter trains. Singapore and Stockholm also have efficient rail transit. Seattle, however, has fewer options for effective public transportation.

Seattle residents and workers have expressed mixed opinions on the idea. Some people are willing to pay the tax for a shorter, easier commute. Seattle Magazine cites that others fear the toll will “disproportionately harm low-income people who have no choice but to drive to work”, since rent in Seattle now reaches such a high price. The City Council is currently trying to create a program to address this issue should the tax go into effect.

The city continues to study both the possible economic, environmental, and social effects of the tax. Even if the city decides to implement the toll, the residents of Seattle still have the ultimate decision. Although taxing Uber and Lyft rides will not require a public vote, the toll itself must pass voter approval in order to take effect. Until the city’s decision, Seattle commuters will still have to navigate the traffic and congestion of downtown.



About Rachel Kadoshima

Rachel is a senior economics and French language student

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