SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco officials are pushing ahead with a controversial plan to charge a toll to motorists entering and the exiting the city's downtown during peak hours.
The Board of Supervisors, acting in their role as transportation authority commissioners, voted 8 to 3 Tuesday to further study charging commuters as much as $6 a day to drive in and out of congested areas of San Francisco. The supervisors lead its consolidated city-county government.
The annual toll for weekday drivers could be as high as $1,500 a year, and possibly generate $60 million to $80 million in annual net revenues.
California's Bay Area Toll Authority recently implemented congestion pricing for its tolls on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The toll authority also issues bonds backed by its bridge tolls. San Francisco could potentially issue bonds based on revenue from the proposed congestion-pricing cordon tolls.
Jose Luis Moscovich, executive director of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, told commissioners during the meeting that congestion pricing would be an important tool to tackle climate change and increase transportation revenues in the face of tight budgets on the state and federal levels.
"We see congestion pricing as one of the very last frontiers," Moscovich said.
The commissioners also accepted two potential models for the tolling program as part of a staff study, which focuses on motorists traveling in and out of the downtown area.
If the plan continues toward implementation, drivers could be tolled as part of a pilot program as early as 2015, according to a staff report. The tolls may also need approval from the Legislature.
The feasibility study could cost between $1 million and $2 million. It may be funded in part by the federal government, which has shown interest in congestion pricing.
City staff used London and Stockholm as examples of similar cities that have successfully adopted congestion pricings.
"I don't think anyone here wants San Francisco to follow in the path of other cities that are traffic disasters, and I am not just talking about Los Angeles," said commissioner David Chiu. "It is our responsibility to at least study these options."
Supervisors also raised questions about the potential impact on local businesses from the tolls.
Under political pressure from southern neighbors, the commissioners cut out a proposal to toll drivers at San Francisco's southern border with San Mateo County.
During public comment on the matter, state Assemblyman Jerry Hill, who represents the district just south of San Francisco, warned of "border wars" and said he would propose legislation barring cities from tolling at borders if San Francisco went ahead with tolls at the southern gateways.
"This is a regional issue and deserves regional consideration where everyone has a seat at the table," Hill said.