Friday, January 2, 2009

Congestion hooey?

Editor - As a former San Franciscan who now lives in the North Bay, my response to the proposed "congestion pricing" schemes is: "Are you kidding?"

For a city that fiscally depends on outsiders - tourists, commuters, shoppers and diners - congestion pricing is a really stupid idea. There is no good public transportation to get to San Francisco from the North Bay unless you are commuting to the downtown business district. Outside commute hours, the ferries and buses run infrequently, and after a late dinner, there is no way to get back to Marin. Even finding a taxi is practically impossible.

In addition, those proposing this idea might look at a map. Most of the time I'm driving through the "ring" I'm not driving to San Francisco, I'm driving through it to get to the airport or somewhere else on the Peninsula. Want to relieve congestion? Build a freeway from the Golden Gate Bridge to the intersection of 101 and 280 just south of Parkmerced, and you won't have to worry about us again.



Letters to the Editor, SF Chronicle, January 1, 2009

No, Ms. Lerer, we're not kidding. San Francisco, specifically the older, denser northeaster corner of the city, has been suffering under the burden of motor vehicle congestion for decades!

It's difficult to know where to begin tearing this letter apart, but her specific arguments don't even weigh against the specific plan for downtown San Francisco. She is worried that the only public transit options from the North Bay take you to the downtown, and are only reliable during commute hours. Fortunately, this is the only part of town, and the only time of day that will be affected by the congestion fee.

She also laments that the fee is unfair because she's only passing through the congestion zone, not visiting it. She even suggests that we build a freeway through our city to get her to I-280. This is exactly the kind of trip that worsens congestion without providing any benefits to the local economy, and it's exactly what congestion pricing is designed to prevent or move to off-peak hours.

If you want to push one of my hot buttons, try suggesting that the elevated freeways that scar our city are a good thing, or that we need more of them. Building a freeway the entire length of San Francisco won't mean we never have to worry about those cars or the people in them ever again, it will mean blight, crime, higher rates of asthma, heart disease and a slew of the other unarguable effects of high vehicle traffic volumes. What's more, California Highway 1 already runs the entire route she wants, via Park Presidio Blvd and 19th Ave. The status quo along that gem of a roadway is unacceptable exactly because it's overused by Ms. Lerer and her ilk.

The city of San Francisco doesn't owe suburban residents a free ride through our neighborhoods. Congestion pricing is not punitive, it offsets real costs that the city has been shouldering all these years. The plan is sound and serves to allow drivers, cyclists, and those who walk and take the bus to make more well-informed economic decisions about their transportation options.

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